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Congressman Jim Himes Calls on Electoral College to Reject Donald Trump

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Chion Wolf
/
Connecticut Public Radio
Rep. Jim Himes in a WNPR file photo.

Five hundred thirty-eight members of the Electoral College meet Monday in state capitols across the U.S. to cast their votes for the next president -- and Connecticut U.S. Congressman Jim Himes is calling on them to reject President-elect Donald Trump.

Speaking on WNPR’s Colin McEnroe Show, Himes said it's not because he opposes Trump’s positions on particular issues.

"Whether it's building a wall, or repealing the Affordable Care Act, or his appointments -- you know, none of that stuff do I like very much, but that’s of course in-bounds," Himes said. "Those are, I guess, Republican positions. What is not in-bounds is trashing the American intelligence community, saying that they don’t know what they’re talking about, and standing up for the Kremlin. What is not in-bounds is constantly putting out -- I hesitate to use the word facts -- but facts that are incorrect. Like that there was two to three million fraudulent votes in the presidential election. That’s just not true. And it's certainly not in-bounds to be running a global business empire while you’re President of the United States. So those three things, at least, to me -- and this has nothing to do with Democrat, or Republican, or ideology -- raise serious questions about the qualification of this individual, and the loyalties, and the preparation of this individual to be president. So I think the electoral college should do what it is there to do, and reflect on whether this guy should be president or not."

Himes said he does not mean to suggest that electors would or should hand the election to Hillary Clinton.

"They could choose someone else," he said. "They could choose one of the Republicans who ran for President. I guess theoretically they could choose Mike Pence and I don’t agree with these guys on a lot because I’m a Democrat, but they wouldn’t scare me. They wouldn’t raise fundamental questions with me about the fitness of the individual involved to be president."

Himes, who said he’s not a fan of the electoral college, admitted that it's not likely that enough electors will change their votes and change the outcome.

Read the transcript below from Himes's appearance on The Colin McEnroe Show, or listen online to the show's full discussion of the electoral college.

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TRANSCRIPT

COLIN MCENROE: One of the people who would like the Electoral College to at least behave differently, if it continues to exist, is Congressman Jim Himes. He represents Connecticut’s fourth congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives. He’s joining us by phone right now. Welcome to our conversation, sir.

REP. JIM HIMES: Hi, Colin! Good to be with you.

MCENROE: So what are you calling on the Electoral College to do? We should say that you’ve caught Trump disease. This initially emerged as a tweet. But flesh it out for us – what it is you want the Electoral College to do?

HIMES: Sure. Well, I think you put it exactly right. The Electoral College, of course, is how we elect a president. And it is a group of people established in the Constitution. And it’s people, right? It’s not computers; it’s not algorithms; it’s not, you know, some program that looks at votes in a particular state and automatically votes the way those votes would indicate. It is a group of people. And if you dive into the people who wrote the Constitution, you see that it was intended to be a body that would guard against somebody who was not qualified -- if I can quote Alexander Hamilton and Federalist Paper Number 68, who said that it’s there to stop somebody who is not endowed with the requisite qualifications for being president, to become president. And so my call to the Electoral College –

MCENROE: To be fair, I think he rapped it, and he said “that’s cause for elimination.” He had to rhyme something with “qualification.” Anyway, continue.

HIMES: [Laughs] OK. Anyway, and let me be clear about how I feel about what Donald Trump has done. You know, his positions – whether it’s building a wall, or repealing the Affordable Care Act, or his appointments – you know, none of that stuff do I like very much, but that’s of course in-bounds. Those are, I guess, Republican positions. What is not in-bounds is trashing the American intelligence community, saying that they don’t know what they’re talking about, and standing up for the Kremlin. What is not in-bounds is constantly putting out -- I hesitate to use the word facts – but facts that are incorrect. Like that there was two to three million fraudulent votes in the presidential election. That’s just not true. And it’s certainly not in-bounds to be running a global business empire while you’re President of the United States. So those three things, at least, to me – and this has nothing to do with Democrat, or Republican, or ideology – raise serious questions about the qualification of this individual, and the loyalties, and the preparation of this individual to be president. So I think the Electoral College should do what it is there to do, and reflect on whether this guy should be president or not.

MCENROE: So I mean, as a structural matter, so what is it? It’s 306 to 232. So you’d really need to – I mean, to change it, to get him below 270, you’d have to flip around 37 votes, or to get her up over 270, you’d kind of have to do the same thing. I haven’t heard a number larger than 20 being kicked around of – they call them faithless electors, which I think is kind of a disincentive. Maybe we need a different name. But I mean, I don’t know – how likely is it that you could get that number, the requisite number?

HIMES: Well, let me say a couple things. I don’t think it’s very likely. You know, it’s never happened before. But I think it’s worth thinking about. And by the way, I’m not a big fan of the Electoral College.  I kinda think that the people of the United States ought to elect the president. But as long as it’s there -- and it’s there -- you know, it should be something more than just sort of this algorithm, which converts votes into a vote. One other thing, Colin: you said her; it won’t make her the president. That’s not at all my intention here. Again, I’m not making a Democratic argument, and in fact, as a practical matter, the idea that the Electoral College would hand the election to Hillary Clinton I think is impossible, but you know, they could choose someone else.  They could choose one of the Republicans who ran for President. I guess theoretically they could choose Mike Pence and I don’t agree with these guys on a lot because I’m a Democrat, but they wouldn’t scare me. They wouldn’t raise fundamental questions with me about the fitness of the individual involved to be president. But you’re right. This is probably not a high probability of success gambit. And I, you know, I also have to acknowledge that it would be unprecedented. The Electoral College has never acted in this way. But it’s there, and part of the reason it’s there is to have the ability to act in this way. By the way, in this case, interestingly enough, when the college was set up, the idea was if a majority of Americans voted in a way that installed somebody who was not -- didn’t have, in Alexander Hamilton’s phrase, “the requisite qualifications” – the idea was that the Electoral College would overrule the majority of American voters. In this case, they would actually be going with the majority of American voters who, by a margin of three million votes, voted for somebody other than Donald Trump to be president. 

MCENROE: So I guess the follow-up here is -- I mean, right now, you’re, I think, as a lot of people are, talking about the disconnection between how people voted and what the Electoral College is going to do. You’re also talking about ways in which even though Donald Trump ran as a very unconventional and transgressive candidate, all the way through the campaign, some of his post-election day behavior seems to fall even below that strange standard that he established for himself. He’s even below his own baseline. But I mean, realistically, probably, we’re not going to overturn the results of the election. Do you have a significant interest, either through constitutional amendment, or the somewhat easier path, the so-called NPV, the national popular vote compact system, of changing this? Or is it just something we do or talk about on those days when we’re really upset, like in 2000, or now?

HIMES: You know, as long as I’ve been doing this, I’ve said that I would support a constitutional amendment. And it would take a constitutional amendment to get rid of the Electoral College. As you point out, there are proposals that would kind of get you around it, that would require, you know, electors to vote according to the national popular vote. There’s a bunch of proposals out there. But I would certainly support that. I mean, let’s take a step away from Trump. I’ve been pretty clear that I don’t believe this man is qualified to be president. I’m very scared about what he might do when he is president. But let’s step away from Trump for a second. You know, I guess this would be the third time in our history where the Electoral College would have put somebody in the presidency who lost the popular vote. So forget about Trump. How does that feel to anybody? You know, t o a new president who’s marching down Pennsylvania Avenue on his way to the White House, or her way to the White House, knowing that the majority of Americans didn’t want him or her to do that. That’s a funny situation. It’s kind of a reverse mandate. And so just forget about Trump for a second. I’m just not sure that there’s really any utility to this body. Now maybe there was, back in 1780, you know? Back when people felt as much loyalty to their state as they did to the United States. But I just think it’s an antiquated institution that causes all kinds of problems. But hey: as long as it’s there, let’s have it there for a reason, not just as a relic of a bygone era.  

MCENROE: Right. I like that argument, anyway. It’s weird. It probably shouldn’t be there. But it actually has the capacity to do something interesting and useful right now, and chances are it probably won’t. Congressman Jim Himes, I know you have a busy day, piled upon many, many busy days to come. Thank you so much for taking some time to join this conversation.

HIMES: Thank you, Colin.

Diane Orson is a special correspondent with Connecticut Public. She is a longtime reporter and contributor to National Public Radio. Her stories have been heard on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Weekend Edition and Here And Now. Diane spent seven years as CT Public Radio's local host for Morning Edition.
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