January 6 was a horrifying day. Violent protesters stormed the Capitol, attacking law enforcement and endangering everyone working inside, from senators’ staffers to maintenance workers. Peaceful protest is a hallmark of our country. The right of assembly is a sacred American right. What happened at the Capitol was not a peaceful protest. It was violent, unlawful, and fundamentally un-American.
Thanks to the heroic efforts of Capitol Police officers, who put their lives on the line to protect us, and thanks to law enforcement officers from across the Capitol region, the Capitol was secured. Undeterred, members and staff returned to the building to carry out the business of the day. We followed the law, counted the votes, and certified the election.
The oath I swear as senator for South Dakota is not to any one person, but to the U.S. Constitution:
I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.
Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution and the 12th Amendment make clear that the Senate’s role in presidential elections is limited to counting the electoral ballots certified by the states. The applicable federal law, enacted in 1887, further clarifies the limited role of Congress. It provides that Congress must accept all electoral ballots that are lawfully certified by the submitting state so long as there are not competing submissions. Otherwise, Congress has no authority to overturn the results of this or any other presidential election.
As is the case with any election, Americans should not tolerate a single fraudulent vote. I believe any credible accusation, now or in the future, should be investigated, and those who have violated our nation’s trust should be held to account, period. I will also support relevant efforts to examine and strengthen the integrity of our federal elections.
As a senator, my guideposts are the Constitution and the rule of law, and I have striven to perform the duties they require of me. Under our constitutional system, in which I have tremendous faith, the results of this election could not be undone by Congress.
I will continue to fight every day for conservative principles. During my time in Congress, I have worked with multiple presidential administrations. There have been areas where I have agreed and areas where I have disagreed with presidents of both parties. No matter what, you can be sure that whatever the circumstance, I will strive to uphold my oath of office and I will always stand up for South Dakotans.
Note to editors: A similar version of this column first ran on argusleader.com.