Then-congresswoman-elect Mariannette Miller-Meeks, right, tours Weiler Products in Knoxville with company President Pat Weiler. (Courtesy of The Concept Works Inc.)
WASHINGTON — A congressional committee on Wednesday postponed a decision on whether Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, the Republican certified and sworn in as the winner of Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District, is rightfully representing that district.
The House Committee on Administration voted on party lines to delay consideration of a motion by Miller-Meeks to throw out an election challenge from her Democratic opponent, Rita Hart, who lost that race by six votes last November.
Instead, the panel will begin gathering evidence on the merits of Hart’s challenge, beginning with a series of questions that will be sent to both Hart and Miller-Meeks on “the specific procedures, legal principles and timelines that should control the course of this case,” Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the House Committee on Administration, said Wednesday.
“Today, none of us can say with confidence who actually won this election,” Lofgren said. “Answering that question is a solemn responsibility of this committee … Our answer must be grounded in hard evidence, not assumptions.”
Republicans on the panel opposed delaying a decision on dismissing the challenge, arguing that federal lawmakers should not be overturning state-certified election results.
Miller-Meeks “has been doing a great job of representing the people of Iowa’s Second District,” said Rep. Rodney Davis of Illinois, the committee’s ranking Republican, describing any prolonged investigation into the election results as a waste of tax dollars.
Hart ran against Miller-Meeks to replace now-retired Democratic Rep. Dave Loebsack in Iowa’s 2nd District. The state-certified results showed a six-vote win for Miller-Meeks in the November general election: 196,964 to 196,958.
A recount before the certification narrowed what had been a larger lead for Miller-Meeks, and Hart has argued that at least 22 votes were not counted due to errors by election officials.
Republicans have criticized Hart for not challenging the election results in state court before asking Congress to resolve the issue.
Hart’s campaign has argued she did not do so because Iowa statute does not offer enough time for a sufficient appeal process.
During Wednesday’s hearing, Lofgren said a candidate’s failure to exhaust state court remedies is not a reason allowed in the law detailing election challenges to dismiss a challenge at this point in the process.
Colorado Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert declared on Wednesday that Miller-Meeks had “won her race.”
“Why will Democrats not accept the outcome of an election after all legal avenues have been exhausted,” Boebert tweeted. “Anyone questioning the results is inciting an insurrection.”
Mariannette Miller-Meeks won her race in Iowa.
Why will Democrats not accept the outcome of an election after all legal avenues have been exhausted?
Anyone questioning the results is inciting an insurrection.
— Lauren Boebert (@laurenboebert) March 10, 2021
In a statement after Wednesday’s vote, Hart’s campaign manager, Zach Meunier said they were “glad” to see the committee’s decision to move forward with reviewing the dispute.
“Every legal voter in this country has a right to have their ballot counted and the remedy here is clear: count the ballots,” Meunier said.
Staffers for Miller-Meeks did not respond to emails seeking comment Wednesday.
But her campaign Twitter account posted a fundraising link Wednesday afternoon, with the message: “In Iowa, the votes were counted, recounted, and in some cases — recounted again. Now, Rita Hart is asking democrat politicians in DC to elect her because the voters of Iowa did not. Help us stop this attack on Iowa’s free and fair elections!”
The election challenge is being considered as Democrats are facing a slimming majority in the House, due to several lawmakers joining the Biden administration.
Rep. Marcia Fudge of Ohio resigned Wednesday after she was confirmed by the Senate to head the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The nomination of Rep. Debra Haaland of New Mexico, who was tapped by President Joe Biden to lead the Interior Department, is pending in the Senate.
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