Seven Democratic senators asked the Senate Ethics Committee on Thursday to investigate the actions of Republican Senators Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley "to fully understand their role" in the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol by supporters of former President Donald Trump.
Thousands had gathered that day as Congress voted to formally certify Joe Biden's victory over Trump in November. Hawley and Cruz led objections in the Senate to Biden's victory, despite the widespread recognition that the effort would fail.
In the end, Congress certified Biden's Electoral College victory, but not before thousands marched to the Capitol at Trump's urging, overwhelmed security and interrupted the proceedings. In the end, the violence led to five deaths, injured dozens of police officers and caused extensive damage to the Capitol.
The Democratic senators said the question for the Senate to determine was not whether Cruz and Hawley had the right to object, but whether the senators failed to put loyalty "to the highest moral principles and to country above loyalty to persons, party or government department." They also said the investigation should determine whether Cruz, of Texas, and Hawley, of Missouri, engaged in "improper conduct reflecting on the Senate."
"Until then, a cloud of uncertainty will hang over them and over this body," the Democratic senators wrote in a letter to the leaders of the Senate Ethics Committee.
'Set the stage' for violence
The Democratic senators said Cruz and Hawley announced their intentions to object, even though they knew that claims of election fraud were baseless and had led to threats of violence.
"Their actions lend credence to the insurrectionists' cause and set the stage for future violence. And both senators used their objections for political fundraising," the Democratic senators said in their letter.
Cruz and Hawley have condemned the violence on January 6. Cruz called it a "despicable act of terrorism." Hawley said those who attacked police and broke the law must be prosecuted.
Cruz helped force a vote on Biden's victory in Arizona, while Hawley helped force one on Biden's victory in Pennsylvania.
"Joe Biden and the Democrats talk about unity but are brazenly trying to silence dissent," Hawley said in a prepared statement. "This latest effort is a flagrant abuse of the Senate ethics process and a flagrant attempt to exact partisan revenge."
The Senate Democrats requesting the investigation are Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, Ron Wyden of Oregon, Tina Smith of Minnesota, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, Tim Kaine of Virginia and Sherrod Brown of Ohio.