This editorial originally appeared in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
Ten months after a group of Senate Democrats lodged ethics complaints into the conduct of Republican Sens. Josh Hawley of Missouri and Ted Cruz of Texas regarding their roles in sparking the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, the Senate Ethics Committee has shown no sign of movement. Both senators tell Politico they haven’t even been contacted by the committee.
The House recently moved with appropriate speed to censure Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., for promoting a cartoon fantasy in which his character kills a fellow member of Congress.
Jan. 6 wasn’t a fantasy; it was real, and the culpability of these two senators must be determined.
Hawley and Cruz were the only two senators to object to certification of Joe Biden’s clear victory in the 2020 election results, citing (with zero evidence) supposed concerns about the election’s integrity. That was the same baseless, toxic nonsense then-President Donald Trump had been spewing since before the election. Such talk whipped up the mob of Trump loyalists to attack the Capitol on Jan. 6.
Hawley was the first senator to object to certification, which is the only reason there had to be a floor vote on the issue. That vote provided the rallying point for the mob. Without that, the attack might not have even happened.
More than a dozen Republican senators initially said they would join Hawley in voting against certification. But after the mob attacked, most of them realized the damage the charade had done to the country and backed off, voting to certify an election in which — again — there wasn’t a single valid indication of significant irregularities. But not Hawley. Even after the violence, he persisted in voting with just five other senators to continue promoting Trump’s big lie that Biden’s win was illegitimate.
Hawley even had the nerve to give a glowering Senate floor speech later that night condemning the violence — an arsonist standing among the ashes. If he had an ounce of honor, he’d have heeded our Jan. 7 call for his resignation (we certainly weren’t alone on that). But at this point, why even talk about honor?
Hawley, of course, now claims victimhood, alleging the ethics complaint would punish him for exercising his official power to object to election results. But the complaint, filed in late January, specifically cites the Code of Ethics for Government Service, which requires that elected officials put “loyalty to the highest moral principles and to country above loyalty to persons, party, or Government department.” Just because there’s a mechanism in place allowing senators to object to election results doesn’t mean it’s OK for Hawley to abuse that process for crass political gain.
Hawley and Cruz have the right to defend themselves from the allegations — but so far, they haven’t even had to. The Ethics Committee should stop sitting on this.