Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley are “complicit in the big lie” and “have a lot of soul searching to do” over their attempts to overturn the presidential election in favour of Donald Trump, a Republican Senate colleague said on Sunday, amid growing calls for the two men to resign or be censured.
Republican objections to electoral college results failed. But Cruz and Hawley were prominent among 147 representatives and senators who backed the late-night effort on Wednesday, even after a mob incited by the president attacked the US Capitol.
Five people including a police officer died amid the chaos, in which lawmakers were apparently the target of planned kidnappings.
The riot has fuelled calls for Trump to resign, as House Democrats prepare articles of impeachment. Speaking to NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania became the second Republican senator to say the president had committed impeachable offences and should “resign and go away as soon as possible”.
Toomey did not call for Cruz and Hawley to quit, though he said they were “going to have a lot of soul searching to do and the problem is they were complicit in the big lie, this lie that Donald Trump won the election in a landslide and it was all stolen.
“They compounded that with this notion that somehow this could all be reversed in the final moments of the congressional proceedings. So that’s, that’s going to be, that’s going to haunt them for a very long time.”
On CNN’s State of the Union, he added: “They’re going to pay a big price for this. I think their reputations have been affected. You’ve seen the kind of reaction in the media back in their home states, so their constituents will decide the final way to adjudicate this.”
Democrats piled in. On Saturday, Sherrod Brown, a Democratic senator from Ohio, called for Cruz and Hawley’s “immediate resignations and said they had “betrayed their oaths of office and abetted a violent insurrection on our democracy”.
“If they do not resign,” he added, “the Senate must expel them.”
Patty Murray of Washington, Chris Coons of Delaware and Tina Smith of Minnesota were among other Democrats to call for Cruz and Hawley to go.
On Sunday Joe Manchin of West Virginia told CNN: “Whether they should resign or not, I don’t know [but] how they can live with themselves knowing that people have died because of their words and actions?”
Hawley, from Missouri, was the first senator to say he would object to election results. He has condemned the Capitol violence but was also pictured raising a clenched fist towards Trump supporters. He has defended his actions and decried the decision by his publisher, Simon and Schuster, to cancel a forthcoming book.
Hawley also objected to criticism from Joe Biden which Toomey echoed on Sunday. The President-elect invoked Hitler’s propaganda minister, saying the senators were “part of the big lie … Goebbels and the great lie. You keep repeating the lie, repeating the lie.”
Cruz, from Texas, also condemned the violence and objected to Biden’s comparison. He has pushed back on calls for his resignation, including from the Houston Chronicle, saying he has no regrets.
“What I was working to do is find a way to re-establish widespread trust in the system,” he claimed to his hometown paper.
Other Republicans backed off their planned objections after the Capitol violence. Manchin told CNN he admired those who put the “constitution above their own political preferences and their own political ambitions”.
On Sunday, Guardian columnist and former US labor secretary Robert Reich wrote that Cruz and Hawley “should be forced to resign”.
“Knowing Trump’s allegations of voting fraud were false,” he wrote, the two Republicans “led the move to exclude Biden electors – even after the storming of the Capitol – thereby lending Trump’s claims credibility.
“The United States constitution says ‘no Person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress’ who ‘shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against’ the constitution, ‘or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof’.
“Both Cruz and Hawley are eyeing runs for the presidency in 2024. They should be barred from running.”