Congressman Cliff Bentz talks with officers from the Capitol police after insurrectionists were cleared from the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 6. Bentz condemned the intrusion. (Office of U.S. Rep. Cliff Bentz)

Oregon Congressman Cliff Bentz said early Thursday he accepted the election of Joe Biden as president but would “continue to empathize” with those who doubt the presidential vote.

Bentz issued a statement after Congress certified Biden’s election. President Trump subsequently declared he would participate in a peaceful transfer of power on Jan. 20.

Bentz joined other Republicans in a failed effort to challenge the electors from Pennsylvania. The only Republican Congressman from Oregon voted against challenging Arizona’s results.

Trump and his Congressional allies had hoped that enough state electors could be challenged to overturn a national election that Biden won by more than 7 million votes.

Congress acted overnight after insurrectionists inspired by President Trump broke into the Capitol Wednesday afternoon, disrupting proceedings in the House and Senate, sending legislators and Congressional workers into lockdown, and resulting in damage throughout the Capitol.

“I condemn the actions of the rioters in the strongest terms possible,” Bentz said in his statement.

Bentz, an Ontario attorney and former state legislator, has been on the job as U.S. representative since Sunday. He was elected to Oregon’s 2nd Congressional District to replace the retiring Greg Walden.

He takes office as Republican fortunes in Washington, D.C., have shifted dramatically. Following a special election in Georgia in which Democrats took two U.S. Senate seats, Democrats will control the White House, the Senate and the House. Bentz will have to represent constituents across eastern Oregon and segments of southern Oregon as a freshman legislator in the minority party,

In mid-December, Bentz joined other newly-elected representatives in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, calling for a Congressional investigation of the presidential election.

“My request has fallen on deaf ears,” Bentz said.

Bentz for days had avoided questions about whether he would join in objecting to electors.

In his statement, Bentz explained that he decided to object to the Pennsylvania results because he believes election procedures in that stated violated the Constitution.

He zeroed in on Pennsylvania’s decision to extend the deadline for the return of absentee ballots.

“This change in voting procedures by a non-legislative body contributed to the widespread loss of faith by many Americans in the 2020 election – including many in my district,” Bentz said in his statement.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has rejected challenges to the mail-in ballots and the U.S. Supreme Court let the decision stand.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, 10,000 ballots postmarked by Election Day but received afterward were were set aside and not included in Pennsylvania's vote count that put Biden up by more than 80,000 votes. The U.S. Supreme Court was scheduled to take up the legal matter again this week.

The House voted 282-138 to reject the Pennsylvania challenge. The Pennsylvania House delegation voted 18-8 against the objection. The Senate voted 92-7 against the objection, including Pennsylvania’s two senators – one a Republican, one a Democrat.

Bentz stood strongly by President Trump through the election, but his 531-statement on Thursday morning never mentioned the president. Trump is widely considered at fault for instigating the takeover of the Capitol by inciting his followers. After they stormed the Capitol, Trump issued a short video, repeating his claims that he was the one elected president but that the supporters should go home.

“We love you. You’re very special,” the president said in apparently addressing the insurrectionists.

Bentz said the “violent events” at the Capitol were “a stain on the history of our country.”

He underscored doubts he has heard about the presidential election.

“I have heard many speak of distrust in the elections,” Bentz wrote. “I continue to empathize with those whose frustrations with the electoral system remain unresolved. I share their frustrations.”

Contact Editor Les Zaitz by email: les@salemreporter.com.

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