WASHINGTON – When the joint session of Congress meets Thursday to certify the Electoral College votes that gave President Bush his second term, several Democratic House members are expected to contest the results.
They may also find support from Sen. Barbara Boxer (search), D-Calif., whose participation under congressional rules would then require senators and representatives to recess to their respective chambers to debate certification.
The action would be the first of its kind in 36 years, but most likely won't add up to more than a procedural delay of the inevitable.
According to the choreography of the certification, after the House is called to order and the senators arrive from their chamber, the joint session begins with Vice President Dick Cheney (search) leading the activities.
The "certificates of vote" from each of the states will be called out and the number of votes designated for president and vice president will be reported on four separate paper tallies. At the end of the reading of all 50 states and the District of Columbia's votes, the four tellers responsible for recording the tallies will compare results and sign off on them. Cheney will then announce the totals and order them into the record.
However, as was also the case in 2001, when more than two dozen Democrats objected to the certification of Florida's disputed election, a new objection is expected this time. At least three House Democrats, Reps. Jesse Jackson Jr. of Illinois, John Conyers of Michigan and Stephanie Tubbs Jones of Ohio, and possibly several others, are expected to object to the certification of Ohio's 20 Electoral College votes for Bush alleging voting irregularities in the decisive swing state.
If a Senate member also offers an objection, the House and Senate must then withdraw to their chambers so each body can discuss objections made on each state's certification. The discussion can last up to two hours for each state after which time each chamber votes separately on each objection. The two bodies would then return to the joint session to report their respective actions on the objections.
Boxer and several other senators had been approached by the House Democrats to launch the corresponding objection from the Senate that would force the recess of the joint session. An aide to Boxer told FOX News that the two-term senator may join the Democratic representatives or "may very well end up doing something short of it. What that means, I'm not sure yet."
Boxer apparently is not the only senator who was approached to cast an objection, her spokeswoman said, but she does appear to be the only senator to state publicly that she is considering contesting the results. According to informed sources, House Democrats also approached newly elected Illinois Sen. Barack Obama (search) to join the objection. Those sources said Obama has no plans to do so.
Sen. John Kerry, who lost the election to Bush and is currently overseas, said in a letter sent to supporters Wednesday he would not take part in a formal protest of the Ohio Electors because, despite widespread reports of voting irregularities, his legal team had "found no evidence that would change the outcome of the election."
Kerry said he planned to introduce election reform legislation and push for congressional hearings on the voting irregularities.
Asked about the political wisdom of deciding to join House members in contesting the results, the Boxer aide said, "These are credible folks in the House who say there are real problems out there. They need to shine the light on this. So they made an appeal to the senator for the right to shine the light on it. There are folks who think this is a not a fruitful exercise, because even the results are challenged, it still may not change the outcome, but for two hours, this might at least be worth discussing."
Boxer's consideration of an objection apparently has stirred the pot with new Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, who according to several sources was very upset with the proposal and tried to prevent a leak of the senator's plan from getting out.
Republicans say Boxer and a handful of leftwing house liberals are grandstanding. One Democratic leadership source also criticized Boxer, suggesting, "It would not be preferable or her to object."
Another Democratic leadership aide told FOX News that there is "not going to be a vote on this," referring to any objections, and explained that instead, Boxer may go the floor to talk about the voting problems that occurred in 2004.
FOX News' Carl Cameron, Julie Asher and Jim Mills and The Associated Press contributed to this report.