In this Dec. 16, 2020, file photo, Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Missouri, asks questions during a Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington. Credit: Greg Nash / AP

WASHINGTON — Missouri Republican Sen. Josh Hawley will object to the certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory when Congress meets on Jan. 6 to accept the results of the presidential election.

Hawley is the first senator to make such an announcement after several House Republicans have previously signaled their intention to do the same. With members of both the House and Senate planning objections, it’ll set off a dramatic scenario requiring a vote in both chambers.

Hawley cited unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud and accused the state of Pennsylvania of failing to adhere to its election laws by extending the deadline for mail-in ballots, an argument that has repeatedly been rejected by federal courts.

An outspoken critic of the tech industry, Hawley also accused social media companies of election interference on Biden’s behalf.

“I cannot vote to certify the electoral college results on January 6 without raising the fact that some states, particularly Pennsylvania, failed to follow their own state election laws,” Hawley said in a statement.

“And I cannot vote to certify without pointing out the unprecedented effort of mega corporations, including Facebook and Twitter, to interfere in this election, in support of Joe Biden. At the very least, Congress should investigate allegations of voter fraud and adopt measures to secure the integrity of our elections. But Congress has so far failed to act.”

Hawley’s objection will likely prove only symbolic, a fact the senator acknowledged in his announcement when he cited fruitless Democratic objections to President George W. Bush’s 2004 victory and President Donald Trump’s 2016 victory as his precedent.

“Following both the 2004 and 2016 elections, Democrats in Congress objected during the certification of electoral votes in order to raise concerns about election integrity. They were praised by Democratic leadership and the media when they did,” Hawley said in a statement. “And they were entitled to do so. But now those of us concerned about the integrity of this election are entitled to do the same.”

Hawley’s objection and the expected objections from House Republicans will require both chambers to vote. Several GOP senators have already indicated they will join Democrats in voting down such an effort to overturn the election results.

Hawley’s decision will put pressure on GOP senators up for reelection in 2022 when Trump’s support could be a key factor in primaries, including two Kansas City-area colleagues, Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt and Sen. Jerry Moran.

Blunt, the No. 4 Republican in the Senate, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell reportedly tried to dissuade members of the GOP caucus from bringing such an objection in a phone call earlier this month after the Electoral College affirmed Biden’s victory with 306 electoral votes to Trump’s 232.

Hawley’s announcement comes after weeks of Republican office holders seeking to overturn Biden’s victory despite the fact that he won the popular vote by the largest margin of any challenger against an incumbent since Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1932.

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, who will be the senior Democrat in Missouri’s delegation in the new Congress, has lamented the participation of his Missouri GOP colleagues in that effort.

“When Republicans in positions of leadership refuse to publicly congratulate or even acknowledge that Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr. is President-elect of the United States of America, it darkens our international image and promotes the poisonous political atmosphere under which we all live,” Cleaver told The Star last month. “This is a low water moment in our nation, when some of its leaders wrap themselves in nonsensical silence on the results of this election.”

Story by Brian Lowry, The Kansas City Star.