The Constitution or his boss? Pence faces a choice.


On Wednesday, when Congress conducts what is typically a ceremonial duty of opening and counting certificates of electoral votes, Vice President Mike Pence will play a delicate role.

As president of the Senate, Mr. Pence is expected to preside over the pro forma certification of the Electoral College vote count in front of a joint session of Congress. It is a constitutionally prescribed, televised moment in which Mr. Pence will name the winner of the 2020 presidential election, Joseph R. Biden Jr.

It is also a moment some of Mr. Pence’s advisers have been bracing themselves for ever since the president lost the election and stepped up his baseless claims of widespread voter fraud.

One person close to Mr. Pence described Wednesday’s duties as gut-wrenching, saying that he would need to balance the president’s misguided beliefs about government with his own years of preaching deference to the Constitution.

After nearly a dozen Republican senators said they plan to object to the certification of the vote on Wednesday, the vice president’s chief of staff, Marc Short, issued a carefully worded statement intended not to anger anyone.

“The vice president welcomes the efforts of members of the House and Senate to use the authority they have under the law to raise objections and bring forward evidence before the Congress and the American people on Jan. 6,” he said.

The fact that Mr. Pence’s role is almost entirely scripted by those parliamentarians is not expected to ease a rare moment of tension between himself and the president, who has come to believe Mr. Pence’s role will be akin to that of chief justice, an arbiter who plays a role in the outcome. In reality, it will be more akin to the presenter opening the Academy Award envelope and reading the name of the movie that won Best Picture, with no say in determining the winner.

And with just over two weeks left in the administration, Mr. Pence is at risk of meeting the fate that he has successfully avoided for four years: being publicly attacked by the president.



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