WASHINGTON — Congressional leaders, including a host of Republicans, bluntly rejected a suggestion from President Donald Trump that the general election be delayed due to COVID-19.
The widespread dismissal of Trump’s idea likely doomed any chances of it becoming a reality as changing the date of the election is a power that rests with Congress, experts say.
The top Republican in the House, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., told reporters at his weekly press conference he understood the president’s concerns about mail-in voting, “but never in the history of the federal elections have we ever not held an election and we should go forward with our election.”
And on the Senate side, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told local Kentucky TV station WNKY the election would be held on November 3 regardless of the situation.
“Never in the history of the country, through wars and depressions and the Civil War, have we ever not had a federally scheduled election on time, and we’ll find a way to do that again this November 3,” he said.
McConnell:US will ‘have the election on Nov. 3’ as scheduled, despite Trump’s tweet
In a tweet Thursday morning in which he again criticized mail-in voting, Trump floated the possibility of delaying the election.
“Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???” the president wrote on Twitter.
Top Democrats in the House and Senate similarly rejected the idea. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., tweeted out part of the U.S. Constitution that dictates that Congress, not the president, determines the date of federal elections.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said the president’s tweet was an attempt to distract from the ongoing pandemic. “All he wants to do is divert from his abject failure in the coronavirus crisis,” Schumer said, noting that setting the election date was Congress’ duty and it would happen as scheduled.
Under federal law, Congress sets the “times, places, and manner” of elections,” meaning only Congress would be able to change the date of the election.
More:Trump floats delaying election over mail-in voting, legal experts say that power rests with Congress
Republicans on both sides of the Capitol expressed skepticism about Trump’s proposal.
“All I can say is, it doesn’t matter what one individual in this country says, we still are a country based on the rule of law and we want to follow the law until either the Constitution is changed,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.
He added: “I don’t know how often I read the Constitution, but I read it enough to know that the…Constitution says when you have to have a law, it says when you choose presidents or president’s reelection.”
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. the interim chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said he wished Trump had not tweeted the suggestion, but added “it’s not going to change: We are going to have an election in November.”
And Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill., the top Republican on the House Administration Committee, which might oversee any change to the election date, wrote on Twitter, “There will be no delay in the #2020Election.”
Even some of Trump’s closest allies on Capitol Hill cast doubt on his idea.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, normally a staunch Trump ally, told reporters, “I think election fraud is a serious problem and we need to fight it and stop it, to stop it. But no, we should not delay the election.” And Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said, “I don’t believe we should delay the elections,” and added, “I think we can be able to safely vote in person in November.”
One lawmaker, Rep. Paul Mitchell, R-Mich, who is retiring this year, tweeted about dropping off his primary election ballot in the mail ahead of Michigan’s August 4 primary.: “I am dropping off my primary election ballot today. I feel safe and secure in doing so. @realDonaldTrump – no reason to mess with our election date.”