GOP avoids T-word in transition pushback

Trump would not commit to peaceful transfer of power

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, leaves the Senate Republican policy luncheon at the National Republican Senatorial Committee on Tuesday. Collins put out a statement Thursday saying she believes there will be a peaceful transition of power after this year's election. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, leaves the Senate Republican policy luncheon at the National Republican Senatorial Committee on Tuesday. Collins put out a statement Thursday saying she believes there will be a peaceful transition of power after this year's election. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Posted September 24, 2020 at 12:56pm

Add it to the list of things Republicans running for Congress have to respond to as voting begins in some states. 

Republican members of Congress lined up Thursday morning to promise that a peaceful transfer of power would indeed take place after November’s elections after President Donald Trump on Wednesday declined to commit to a peaceful transfer. Although some GOP lawmakers answered reporters’ questions or posted statements on the latest Trump statement, hardly any mentioned the president by name.

The president’s comments are just the latest in a long line of statements that GOP lawmakers have been asked to react to, but some running for reelection preempted reporter questions with statements Thursday morning. 

“The winner of the November 3rd election will be inaugurated on January 20th. There will be an orderly transition just as there has been every four years since 1792,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell tweeted Thursday morning. 

He later referred to it when reporters asked about the president’s comments, saying,  “Did you see my tweet? That pretty well sums it up.”

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy also pushed back on Trump’s comments Thursday, saying, “No questions, no qualms, no concerns. It’s going to be peaceful. This nation is designed that way. This nation will have it that way, and that’s exactly what will take place.”

New York Republican Rep. John Katko, one of the more vulnerable Republican members of the House, on Facebook called the transition of power “sacred.” 

He said the process is “deliberately outlined in the constitution to ensure the stability of our nation. It has been respected and followed by every President in our country’s history.”

Like most other lawmakers’ statements, Katko’s did not refer to Trump by name.

Trump, asked Wednesday whether he would commit to “a peaceful transferral of power after the election,” wouldn’t guarantee it. 

“Well, we’re going to have to see what happens. You know that,” Trump said. “I’ve been complaining very strongly about the ballots. And the ballots are a disaster.”

Trump, when pressed later, said, “We want to have — get rid of the ballots and you’ll have a very trans- — we’ll have a very peaceful — there won’t be a transfer, frankly; there’ll be a continuation,” in an apparent suggestion that he will either win reelection or remain in power regardless.

Democrats seized on Trump and his comments, demanding that Republicans publicly condemn them. 

On the Senate floor Thursday, Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer said, “Every Republican in this chamber should stand up and say that a president who isn’t entirely sure if he’ll commit to a peaceful transfer of power isn’t a president at all.” 

Republican senators weren’t ready to go as far as Schumer suggested. 

One of the most vulnerable GOP senators, Maine’s Susan Collins, tweeted mid-morning on Trump’s comments while steering clear of naming the president. 

“One of the foundations of our democracy is a peaceful transition of power between administrations,” she said. “That has been true throughout our history, and this year will be no different. The winner of the presidential election will be sworn in on January 20th.”

North Carolina GOP Sen. Thom Tillis, who is in a tight race with Democratic opponent Cal Cunningham, said, “We all need to support what has happened since the signing of the Constitution.”

Tillis expressed confidence that this year’s election will be fair and the transfer of power will be peaceful. When a reporter asked what he would do or say if things don’t go the way he expects them to, he said, “That's a hypothetical. It’s not going to happen, but it’s a great news story.”