An array of congressional Republicans, including more than a dozen members in both the House and Senate and in the party’s leadership, openly rejected President Donald Trump’s suggestion Thursday that November’s presidential election should be delayed, a move that the President would have no authority to make because the Constitution gives Congress the power to set the date for voting.
It was the latest example of the President making incendiary comments on Twitter – and putting Republicans in an awkward spot to deal with the fallout.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican and Trump ally, told CNN when asked about the President’s call to delay the election: “I don’t think that’s a particularly good idea.”
Majority Whip Sen. John Thune, a member of Republican leadership, told CNN that there will be an election in November despite the President’s tweet.
“I think that’s probably a statement that gets some press attention, but I doubt it gets any serious traction,” Thune said.
“I think we’ve had elections every November since about 1788, and I expect that will be the case again this year,” he said.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell similarly insisted that the election will go on as planned.
“Never in the history of the country, through wars, depressions and the Civil War, have we ever not had a federally-scheduled election on time. We’ll find a way to do that again this November 3rd,” the majority leader said in an interview with WNKY.
Earlier on Thursday, Trump tweeted, “With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history. It will be a great embarrassment to the USA. Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???”
CNN has previously fact checked claims by Trump that there is a distinction between mail-in voting and absentee voting – and experts say those voting systems are essentially the same thing. There is also no widespread fraud in US elections.
The President also does not have the power to change the date of the election. Election Day is set by congressional statute, and most experts agree that it cannot be changed without congressional approval.
Despite the President’s lack of authority, his message provides an opening – long feared by Democrats – that both he and his supporters might refuse to accept the results of the presidential election.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, responded to the President with a tweet of her own quoting Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution, that gives Congress the authority to “determine the Time of choosing the Electors, and the Day on which they shall give their Vote.”
GOP Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois echoed that idea, tweeting, “Reminder: Election dates are set by Congress. And I will oppose any attempts to delay the #2020Election.”
House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy of California dismissed Trump’s call to delay election, but defended the President’s concerns over voting fraud.
“Never in the history of federal elections have we ever not held an election and we should go forward with our election,” McCarthy said, “No way should we ever not hold our election on the day that we have it.”
Republican Sen. Thom Tillis, who is facing a tough reelection battle in North Carolina, said Thursday: “The election is going to happen in November period.”
“The election is going to be held in November. Absentee ballots in North Carolina are strongly encouraged, as has the President encouraged them. The safe side to a mail-in vote, I hope we get it mostly… Because otherwise they’re gonna undermine the integrity of the election,” he said.
Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz said, “Election fraud is a serious problem we need to stop it and fight it, but no the election should not be delayed.”
GOP Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida said of Trump’s tweet, “I wish he hadn’t said that, but it’s not going to change: We are going to have an election in November and people should have confidence in it.”
Senate Finance Committee chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa downplayed the President’s comments, saying, “All I can say is that, it doesn’t matter what one individual in this country says. We still are a country based on the rule of law. And we must follow the law until either the Constitution is changed or until the law is changed.”
Republican Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming said in an interview on Fox Business, “No, we’re not going to delay the election,” adding, “We’re going to have the election completed and voting completed by Election Day.”
GOP Rep. Dusty Johnson of South Dakota raised concerns in a tweet that any delay would hurt the legitimacy of the election.
“Moving Election Day would seriously jeopardize the legitimacy of the election. Federal, state and local officials need to continue to work hard to ensure that Americans can vote safely, whether by voting early or on November 3,” he tweeted.
Not every Hill Republican, including some members of leadership, has weighed in on the President’s call or pushed back on the message.
“Not answering any questions,” said Sen. Joni Ernst, an Iowa Republican also facing voters in a tough race, when asked about Trump’s tweet.
This story has been updated with additional reaction Thursday.
CNN’s Lauren Fox, Ali Zaslav and Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.