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After leading Senate Republicans to object to Biden’s win, Hawley and Cruz face a backlash

Senator Josh Hawley, R-Mo., left, and Senator Ted Cruz, R-Texas, right, spoke on Jan. 6 as Congress certified Joe Biden's presidential win.
Senator Josh Hawley, R-Mo., left, and Senator Ted Cruz, R-Texas, right, spoke on Jan. 6 as Congress certified Joe Biden's presidential win.Andrew Harnik/Associated Press

As the country prepares for the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden, two Republican senators continue to face consequences for attempting to overturn the election.

Missouri Senator Josh Hawley and Texas Senator Ted Cruz are feeling the heat after the pair played a pivotal role in swaying other Republican lawmakers to object to the certification of Biden’s clear win.

Hawley was the first senator to say he would join with more than 100 House Republicans on Jan. 6 in objecting to the certification of Electoral College tallies when Congress convened.

Days later, Cruz issued a joint statement pledging that he and a coalition of other senators would also vote against certain state electors unless an electoral commission was appointed by Congress to conduct an audit of the election results.

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Though it was clear from the beginning that their efforts would not succeed, they forged ahead anyway — with both Hawley and Cruz protesting the votes in Pennsylvania and Arizona.

Even after a violent riot struck the Capitol — leaving five dead, a building ransacked, and many fearing the lasting implications on an already-divided nation — dozens of Republican lawmakers still followed through with their plan to object to the vote, though some reversed course.

In affirming their position on the vote, the group aligned itself with President Trump, who — until a day after the deadly siege — steadfastly refused to acknowledge his defeat and whose campaign has lost dozens of election-related lawsuits.

While both Cruz and Hawley have denied that their actions — and their baseless argument that the presidential election was tainted with fraud — may have encouraged the rioters who later descended on the Capitol, both are facing pushback from companies, constituents, and fellow elected officials.

Here’s a look at some of the repercussions the pair is now dealing with.

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Calls to resign — on both a local and national scale

Like other Republican members of Congress who voted against certifying Biden’s win, Hawley and Cruz are facing calls to resign — including from their own home districts.

Protesters have gathered outside Hawley’s Missouri office and elsewhere calling for him to step down from his post, and a Change.org petition organized by constituents has collected more than 140,000 signatures demanding his resignation.

Prior to contesting Biden’s win, Hawley was photographed raising a fist to Trump supporters before the riot, which resulted in a social media firestorm.

Both the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the Kansas City Star have also published scathing editorials railing against Hawley’s alleged complicity in the riot.

When he took to the Senate floor following the insurrection, Hawley condemned the rioters and said that violence is “not how you achieve change.”

“There is no place for that in the United States of America,” he said.

The Post-Dispatch blasted Hawley’s remarks, writing that his “tardy, cover-his-ass condemnation of the violence ranks at the top of his substantial list of phony, smarmy and politically expedient declarations.”

That speech, the Kansas City Star reported, came after “Hawley sent multiple fundraising pleas linked to his objection to Biden’s electoral votes.”

It has been reported that both Cruz and Hawley are considering presidential runs in 2024, hoping to inherit Trump’s base.

The editorial continued: “Americans have had enough of Trumpism and the two-faced, lying, populist politicians who embraced it. Hawley’s presidential aspirations have been flushed down the toilet because of his role in instigating Wednesday’s assault on democracy. He should do Missourians and the rest of the country a big favor and resign now.”

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Meanwhile, the Kansas City Star wrote that Hawley has “blood on his hands,” and that he is to blame for “inspiring one of the most heartbreaking days in modern American history.”

Missouri House Democrats have filed a resolution urging Hawley to resign, saying that he played a “leading role” in inciting the riot.

Following the siege, Hawley said he would “never apologize for giving voice to the millions of Missourians and Americans who have concerns about the integrity of our elections.”

He penned a column last week in the Missouri Times, denying that he played a role in inciting the violence at the Capitol and accusing the “Washington establishment” and media of deceiving Americans into believing he is an “insurrectionist.”

New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Minnesota Representative Ilhan Omar — both progressive Democrats — called on Hawley to resign Friday, with Ocasio-Cortez retweeting the Missouri Republican’s column and attaching the photo of him fist-pumping Trump supporters outside the Capitol.

“You raised your fist in solidarity with white supremacists who attacked our Capitol,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “While you may politically regret what you’ve revealed about yourself, you still have no place in public office. Resign.”

Omar retweeted the same post and photo as Ocasio-Cortez, writing a simple: “Resign!”

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Likewise, protests have also been held calling for Cruz to resign, including outside his Houston office on Saturday, and Texas Democrats have launched a campaign aimed at evicting him from the Senate.

The website created by the Texas Democratic Party is “TraitorTed.org.”

“Ted Cruz should be expelled from the Senate for inciting a violent insurrection,” Texas Democrats wrote on Twitter. “If he doesn’t have the decency to resign, Texans have the power to vote him out in 2024.”

Fellow Texan leaders are also urging for Cruz to step down, with Julián Castro writing that along “with Hawley, @tedcruz fueled this violence and insurrection with his lies.”

His brother, Texas Representative Joaquin Castro, also said both Hawley and Cruz “should immediately resign.”

Replying to a tweet where Cruz said the Capitol siege was a “horrific assault on our democracy,” former presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke criticized Cruz for his attempt to subvert the will of voters.

“This is on you,” O’Rourke said. “Resign.”

Two of the major newspapers in Texas have written editorials calling on Cruz to leave office, with the Houston Chronicle saying that his “lies cost lives.”

“Those terrorists wouldn’t have been at the Capitol if you hadn’t staged this absurd challenge to the 2020 results in the first place,” the newspaper wrote.

In one editorial, the San Antonio Express-News asked, “Have you no decency, Sen. Cruz?” — a question also asked of Wisconsin Republican senator Joseph R. McCarthy, infamous for his anticommunist campaign.

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Ocasio-Cortez has also called on Cruz to resign, following his accusation that Biden used “vicious partisan rhetoric” that only “tears the country apart” because of the president-elect’s comparison of Cruz and Hawley to Joseph Goebbels, Adolph Hitler’s top propagandist.

“Your continued excusal and denial of Wednesday’s Neo-Nazi presence is abhorrent and dangerous,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “The most healing and unifying thing *you* can do is take responsibility for your actions and resign.”

But, like Hawley, Cruz is standing his ground and denying that he played a role in the violence that occurred at the Capitol, calling the day’s events a “terrorist attack” and “an assault on the citadel of democracy.”

“What I was doing and what the other senators were doing is what we were elected to do, which is debating matters of great import in the chamber of the United States Senate,” Cruz told Kens 5, a news station in San Antonio.

Both Hawley and Cruz are alumni of Ivy League law schools, with the former having attended Yale and the latter having gone to Harvard. Thousands of alumni and students have signed a petition calling for both to be disbarred.

“In leading the efforts to undermine the peaceful transition of power after a free and fair election, Senators Hawley and Cruz attacked the foundations of our democracy,” the petition reads.

Major publishing company cancels Hawley’s book deal

A day after the insurrection at the Capitol, Simon & Schuster announced that it would cancel the publication of Hawley’s book, “The Tyranny of Big Tech.”

The book had been scheduled to publish in June.

“After witnessing the disturbing, deadly insurrection that took place on Wednesday in Washington, D.C., Simon & Schuster has decided to cancel publication of Senator Josh Hawley’s forthcoming book,” the publishing company said in a statement.

Simon & Schuster said it did not make the decision “lightly” but that the move to cancel the book deal was reached because “we take seriously our larger public responsibility as citizens, and cannot support Senator Hawley after his role in what became a dangerous threat to our democracy and freedom.”

Hawley immediately denounced the move and said the cancellation “could not be more Orwellian.”

“This is the Left looking to cancel everything they don’t approve of,” he said in a statement. “We’ll see you in court.”

An employee resigns from Cruz’s office

Lauren Blair Bianchi, Cruz’s communications director, resigned last week in response to the “fallout from the Texas Republican’s question to overturn the election results,” Punchbowl News first reported.

“I’m grateful to Senator Cruz for the opportunity and wish him and his first-rate staff nothing but the best,” Bianchi said in a statement.

A source told the publication that Bianchi had grown “increasingly distressed” with Cruz’s challenging of the Electoral College votes.

“Since the election it was becoming clear things were moving in a direction that she was not comfortable with and that culminated in last week’s tragedy in the Capitol,” the source said.

Days prior to the riot, the Daily Beast reported, Cruz told a rally crowd in Georgia: “We won’t go quietly into the night. We will defend liberty.”

Donors withdraw financial support, and a hotel chain backs down from hosting fundraiser

Loews Hotels said Saturday it had canceled a fundraiser for Hawley.

The event was scheduled to take place at the Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal Orlando in February and was to be hosted by the Hawley-affiliated political committee, Fighting for Missouri, the Orlando Sentinel reported.

“We are horrified and opposed to the events at the Capitol and all who supported and incited the actions,” the hotel said in a statement. “In light of those events and for the safety of our guests and team members, we have informed the host of the Feb. fundraiser that it will no longer be held at Loews Hotels.”

Donors continue to separate from Hawley at a steady rate, with multiple withdrawing financial support. In a statement, Hawley said he would not be “deterred” by the corporate backlash.

“If these corporations don’t want conservatives to speak, they should just be honest about it,” Hawley said Saturday. “But to equate leading a debate on the floor of the Senate with inciting violence is a lie, and it’s dangerous.”

He added: “I will not be deterred from representing my constituents and I will not bow to left wing corporate pressure.”

A number of the country’s largest companies are boycotting Cruz and Hawley — along with the other Republican lawmakers who objected to certifying Biden’s win — following the deadly insurrection.

The New England companies rethinking donations include Blue Cross Blue Shield, CVS Health, General Electric, and Liberty Mutual, joining companies such as American Express, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Comcast, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Marriott, according to multiple reports.

Hallmark Cards has also asked Hawley and Kansas Senator Roger Marshall to return employee campaign donations.

A Super PAC is created to target Hawley’s next election bid

Former staffers of Claire McCaskill, the Democrat Hawley defeated, launched an organization on Friday “dedicated to preventing Hawley from winning any further election, whether it’s reelection to the Senate in 2024 or in a future presidential run,” Politico reported.

The group is called Just Oust Seditious Hacks — or JOSH PAC. It has launched both a website and a Twitter account. According to Politico, the organization has registered with the Federal Election Commission.

On its website, the organization placed the blame for the insurrection squarely on the shoulders of Hawley and other politicians who supported Trump’s baseless election fraud claims.

“We are Americans committed to the rule of law. We watched in horror at the insurrection of the [US] Capitol on Wednesday, January 6, 2021,” reads a statement on the organization’s website.

The statement continues: “The mob of seditionists who stormed the seat of American democracy were inspired and supported by several members of Congress including [US] Senator Josh Hawley and others. Just Oust Seditious Hacks PAC (JOSHPAC) is a permanent effort to call these irresponsible officials out for who they are — Traitors.”

McCaskill tweeted that she was not involved with the organization and that “she had never even talked to them about it.”

“But I’m getting so many inquiries on how to take on Hawley, so I [thought] I would pass it along,” she said. “@OustHawley Your money won’t be wasted.”

In a statement provided to the New York Times, JOSH PAC said Hawley is counting on “his efforts to overturn the election” to “make him president in 2024.”

“He’s betting that the same far-right, nationalist mobs that supported Donald Trump will put him in the White House to continue Trump’s work,” the statement reads. “JOSH PAC will run a permanent campaign to stop him now.”

A spokeswoman for Hawley dismissed the group’s effort in a statement Friday: “We expect Claire McCaskill and her team will be as effective with this campaign as they were with the last. They wasted more than $60 million in 2018 — and lost — after Missourians rejected Claire McCaskill’s failed liberal policies.”

Fellow senators propose action on both Hawley and Cruz, including removing them via 14th Amendment

From calls to censure Hawley and Cruz to expelling the pair from the Senate outright, the two have faced a serious outcry from fellow lawmakers since the insurrection.

If the two do not resign voluntarily, Democratic Senators Sheldon Whitehouse, who represents Rhode Island, and Sherrod Brown, who represents Ohio, have called for the two to be expelled, according to The Hill.

According to the publication, Democratic aides have said there is “a discussion about censuring” Hawley and Cruz “for helping to incite protesters.”

“More and more Democratic caucus members are willing to vote yes on a censure resolution,” one Senate aide told The Hill.

Though a Senate censure is less serious than an outright expulsion, it is a “formal statement of disapproval ... that can have a powerful psychological effect on a member and his/her relationships in the Senate.”

It would require a majority vote to pass.

Whitehouse, a senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, also said in a statement that Cruz, Hawley, and Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson “need to be off all relevant committees reviewing” the riot at the Capitol “until the investigation of their role is complete.”

“The Senate will need to conduct security review of what happened and what went wrong, likely through the Rules, Homeland, and Judiciary Committees,” Whitehouse said. “The Senate Ethics Committee also must consider the expulsion, or censure and punishment, of Senators Cruz, Hawley, and perhaps others.”

West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin said Friday night on PBS’s “Firing Line” that the Senate should consider removing both Hawley and Cruz via the 14 Amendment.

“That should be a consideration,” Manchin said. “He understands that. Ted’s a very bright individual, and I get along fine with Ted, but what he did was totally outside of the realm of our responsibilities or our privileges.”

Section three of the 14th Amendment states that no person shall hold office who, having previously taken an oath, “shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.”


Shannon Larson can be reached at shannon.larson@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @shannonlarson98.