WASHINGTON — A year after the Jan. 6, 2021 assault on the U.S. Capitol, Long Island Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin still disputes the constitutionality of electoral votes cast by swing states, though he refuses to call Joe Biden’s election illegitimate.
Zeldin’s take on the 306 to 232 electoral vote that made Biden president contrasts sharply with Long Island Democratic Rep. Tom Suozzi’s view, who points out that all of the challenges to those swing state votes on behalf of then-President Donald Trump failed.
That divide on Biden’s election — and the House January 6 investigation — will reverberate this year as Zeldin, a Republican in his fourth term and a staunch Trump supporter, and Suozzi, a Democrat in his third term and backer of Biden, run to become governor of New York.
This week during the anniversary of the unprecedented Jan. 6 breach of the Capitol, Zeldin and Suozzi both condemned the violence by Trump’s supporters and both affirmed Biden’s election to the presidency. But a gulf remains between them on the politics of it.
Capitol Police evacuated both Zeldin and Suozzi as the mob violently invaded the Capitol and disrupted the counting of states’ electoral votes for president and vice president, causing a nearly seven-hour pause that would push the declaration of Biden as winner to 3:40 a.m.
"The violence we saw that day was unacceptable," Zeldin said in a statement Wednesday to Newsday, adding that "in our republic we elect people to represent us to voice our objections in the House and Senate."
Suozzi recalled the mob that "stormed the Capitol, broke down doors, made death threats" — acts that brought back "nightmares for all of those who were at the Capitol that day." And he declared the "January 6 insurrection was an attack on our Democracy."
Asked who won the election, Suozzi said Joe Biden.
"He won the most popular votes and the most electoral votes. Any challenges by Trump and his allies have been thoroughly vetted by a large number of bipartisan judges, election and other state officials throughout the country and have been wholly discredited," Suozzi said.
"It is time to move on. The rest of us have," he said.
When that question was posed to Zeldin’s press aide, he pointed Zeldin’s statements to Newsday in May.
"So, you had tens of millions of people that came out and voted for each of the candidates. Their votes were counted. They're counted once, and you ended up with an outcome," Zeldin said. "And that's how President Trump, uh … President Biden became the president, was by winning the November 2020 election."
Zeldin also said, "I believe in our country and the sanctity of our process, and I'm not going to participate in calling elections illegitimate ever."
Zeldin, however, still doubts the constitutionality of electoral votes from swing states. He and more than half of the House Republicans voted to object to Arizona and Pennsylvania electoral votes, but lost to a House majority accepting them.
In response to Newsday’s query this week, Zeldin’s press aide sent the congressman's comments from the speech he made in the House chamber a year ago about why he felt compelled to open a debate on the integrity of elections through objections to those electoral votes.
Zeldin in that speech said there were "many confirmed, evidence-filled issues with swing state election changes were done without legislative approval or Constitutional authority." He blamed "rogue election officials, Secretaries of State, and courts [that] circumvented state election laws."
Zeldin and Suozzi also disagree on the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol.
Zeldin called the committee a partisan exercise created by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), despite the involvement in the nine-member panel by Republican Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, as vice-chair, and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois.
"We know the duties of the January 6 Committee can be carried out in a nonpartisan fashion," Zeldin said, "but Speaker Pelosi has instead chosen the path of turning the committee into a partisan entity."
Suozzi defended the committee. "The stakes are too high," he said. "We cannot allow the January 6th attack on the Capitol to fade into the memories of the American people."