Top Republicans have rejected President Donald Trump’s suggestion that November’s presidential election should be delayed over alleged fraud concerns.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy both dismissed the idea.
Mr Trump does not have the authority to postpone the election, as any delay would have to be approved by Congress.
Earlier, the president suggested that increased postal voting could lead to fraud and inaccurate results.
He floated a delay until people could “properly, securely and safely” vote. There is little evidence to support Mr Trump’s claims but he has long railed against postal voting, which he has said would be susceptible to fraud.
US states want to make mail-in voting easier because of public health concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.
Mr Trump’s intervention came as new figures showed the US economy had suffered the worst contraction since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
How have Republicans reacted?
Senator McConnell said no US presidential election had ever been delayed before.
“Never in the history of this country, through wars, depressions and the Civil War, have we ever not had a federally scheduled election on time. We will find a way to do that again this November third,” he told local Kentucky station WNKY.
Mr McCarthy echoed him. “Never in the history of the federal elections have we ever not held an election and we should go forward with our election,” he said.
Trump ally Senator Lindsay Graham meanwhile said a delay was “not a good idea”.
However, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo refused to be drawn on Mr Trump’s suggestion. Quizzed by reporters on whether a president could delay an election, he said he would not “enter a legal judgement on the fly”.
The spokesman for Mr Trump’s re-election campaign, Hogan Gidley, said Mr Trump had just been “raising a question”.
Donald Trump can’t delay November’s presidential election without Congress, partially controlled by the Democrats, first approving the decision. If he didn’t already know this, someone has certainly told him by now.
The president also must know that tweeting about a delay – even framed as an “I’m just asking!” question – is sure to ignite a political firestorm, particularly after he has repeatedly refused to say whether he’d accept an adverse result in the upcoming presidential election.
Mr Trump appears to be doing everything in his power to undermine the credibility of November’s vote, in which a record number of Americans are predicted to rely on mail-in voting to avoid the risk of exposure to the coronavirus. He’s repeatedly made false and misleading claims about the reliability of the mail balloting and suggested broad conspiracy theories. Critics warn that he could be laying the groundwork for contesting the results – although the purpose may be simply to give him a scapegoat if he loses.
His tweet could also be an attempt to divert attention away from the truly dismal second-quarter economic numbers just released. He’s been relying on a financial turnaround to breathe life into his re-election campaign, and instead the outlook appears exceedingly gloomy.
Whatever the reason, tweeting about an election delay is not the move of a candidate confident of victory – and could be a sign of more desperate moves to come.