House tables motion to dismiss congressional review of contested Iowa race

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The House Administration Committee tabled a motion to dismiss a petition contesting the election results of Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District Wednesday, setting up the committee to review the closest race in the 2020 general election.

Democrat Rita Hart lost to incumbent Republican Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks by six votes out of more than 400,000 ballots cast -- a less than 1% margin of victory -- prompting Hart to petition the election results with Congress in late December.

Miller-Meeks then filed a motion to dismiss the petition, claiming Hart "failed to exhaust state judicial procedures before filing her notice of contest with the House."

IOWA CONGRESSIONAL CONTEST HEATS UP AS HOUSE TAKES FIRST STEP TO CONSIDER ELECTION CHALLENGE

Instead of challenging the election’s results in an Iowa courtroom, Hart lodged her complaint with Congress, claiming that her campaign identified 22 voters in the 2nd District who voted legally, but whose ballots were not included in the final tally.

Despite the close race, Iowa state officials certified the election’s results and Miller-Meeks was provisionally sworn into Congress on Jan. 3.

House Administration Committee Ranking Member, Rodney Davis, R-Ill., said he did not think the committee should be in the business of overriding state-certified election results, and he pointed to her "partisan" decision to take the contested election to Congress.

"By moving forward with Rita Hart’s complaint, this committee is calling into question every member of Congress elected under Iowa law, and frankly each of us too," he said during Wednesday’s meeting.

The Constitution grants the House and Senate the final say in seating its members.

Davis reminded the committee Wednesday of the last time the House was tasked with reviewing a contested election. That was the 1985 race in Indiana that became known as "The Bloody Eighth."

Congress overturned the election results in Indiana's 8th Congressional District after a five-month-long review, finding Democratic Rep. Frank McCloskey -- who originally lost by 418 votes – the winner by four votes after a recount was conducted.

"This bitter fight dominated this committee for nearly five months and eroded public trust in their election process," Davis said in advocating for Miller-Meeks motion for dismissal.

But the committee’s Democrats, led by Chairwoman Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., voted to postpone the motion of dismissal in order to review Hart’s claims involving 22 non-counted votes.

IOWA DEMOCRAT WHO LOST BY 6 VOTES ASKS HOUSE TO INVESTIGATE RACE, CONSIDER FLIPPING RESULT

"Such challenges are not frequent but they are regular," Lofgren said Wednesday, noting that the number of votes deciding the election outcome was even fewer than the number of committee members.

Calling the contested Iowa race "one of the closest House elections in American history" Lofgren noted, "It is the committee’s constitutional duty to investigate all these claims."

Fox News could not immediately reach Miller-Meeks for comment, but in a statement, the Iowa congresswoman claimed Hart "hopes that her fellow Democrats in Washington D.C. will ignore Iowa law and the precedents of the House to grant her the seat in Congress that the voters denied her."

"Hart's power quest is wrong and damages our electoral system," she added.

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For her part, Hart applauded the decision by the committee and said, "We are glad to see the House Committee on Administration taking the next step towards ensuring that every legally-cast vote is counted in this race and that all Iowans’ voices are heard."

The Administration Committee did not immediately respond to Fox News' questions on when it will review Hart’s petition.

Marisa Schultz contributed to this report.

Caitlin McFall Fox News