Congress Rejects Arizona, Pennsylvania Vote Objections, Continues Tally
Members of the U.S. House and Senate on Wednesday voted to reject objections to President-elect Joe Biden's election victory in the states of Arizona and Pennsylvania, hours after violent insurrectionists stormed the Capitol, forcing party leadership to evacuate the scene while rioters overtook the complex. They returned to continue tallying Electoral College votes.
"The United States Senate will not be intimidated," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said as he returned to the Senate floor earlier in the evening. "We will not be kept out of this chamber by thugs, mobs or threats. We will not bow to lawlessness or intimidation. We are back at our posts. We will discharge our duty under the Constitution and for our nation. And we're going to do it tonight."
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi called the violent uprising an "assault on democracy and vowed to carry forward with the work of certifying Biden's election win.
"We know that we're in difficult times but little could we have imagined the assault that was on our democracy today. To those who strove deter us from our responsibility, you have failed."
The Senate overwhelmingly voted to reject the objection, with only six members, all Republicans, voting "yea" on the measure.
In the House, however, opposition to certifying Biden's win remained high. Though it was ultimately rejected, 121 representatives voted in favor of maintaining the objection.
The joint session then took the tally back up, only to break again over objections to Pennsylvania.
The Senate quickly voted to dismiss the Pennsylvania objection, which was filed by a group of House Republicans and Missouri Republican Sen. Josh Hawley. The vote was 92-7.
Both chambers recessed shortly after 2 p.m. when far-right supporters of President Trump heeded his call to go to the Capitol and eventually breached the building. Lawmakers were at the time debating an objection to Arizona's election results when the complex was put on lockdown.
As rioters — waving Trump, Confederate and Nazi flags — stormed the building and vandalized property, the scene devolved into unprecedented chaos.
A woman was shot and killed during the assault on the Capitol, according to Washington, D.C., police. Her identity was not made public, and it was not clear who might be responsible.
The extremists' presence cut short debate on whether to certify Biden's election win in the state of Arizona and likely objections from other states. Biden won overwhelmingly in the popular and electoral vote. But a number of Republicans had moved to object to the certification process. Several have since backed off their pledges to object, including Sens. Kelly Loeffler, James Lankford and Steve Daines.
"The events that have transpired today have forced me to reconsider," Loeffler said, "and I cannot now in good conscious object to the certification of these electors."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a Wednesday evening letter to Congress she had consulted with fellow Democrats as well as the Pentagon, Justice Department and Pence, and that the two chambers would reconvene "tonight at the Capitol once it is cleared for use."
She wrote: "Today, a shameful assault was made on our democracy. It was anointed at the highest level of government. It cannot, however, deter us from our responsibility to validate the election of Joe Biden."
"To that end, in consultation with Leader [Steny] Hoyer and Whip [James] Clyburn and after calls to the Pentagon, the Justice Department and the Vice President, we have decided we should proceed tonight at the Capitol once it is cleared for use. Leader Hoyer will be sending out more guidance later today."
"We always knew this responsibility would take us into the night. The night may still be long but we are hopeful for a shorter agenda, but our purpose will be accomplished."
Sen. Rand Paul, a Republican, said that while he expected a brief debate to continue regarding Arizona's election results, he did not foresee any additional objections following the day's pandemonium.
He said he expected 30 or 40 minutes of debate and one vote. "That's my prediction," Paul said, "I just don't think there's going to be another objection, I think it's over at that point."
Paul had previously tweeted out that he opposed raising any challenges to the electoral votes.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a former top House GOP leader and top Republican on the Energy and Commerce Committee, released a statement saying she will no longer object to the Electoral College results.
"What happened today and continues to unfold in the nation's capital is disgraceful and un-American. Thugs assaulted Capitol Police Officers, breached and defaced our Capitol Building, put people's lives in danger, and disregarded the values we hold dear as Americans. To anyone involved, shame on you," McMorris Rodgers said.
"We must have a peaceful transfer of power. The only reason for my objection was to give voice to the concern that governors and courts unilaterally changed election procedures without the will of the people and outside of the legislative process. I have been consistent in my belief that Americans should utilize the Constitutional tools and legal processes available to seek answers to their questions about the 2020 election. What we have seen today is unlawful and unacceptable. I have decided I will vote to uphold the Electoral College results and I encourage Donald Trump to condemn and put an end to this madness."
For two months, Trump has falsely and continuously claimed the election was stolen from him, and dozens of fellow Republicans had planned to object to slates of electors from various states they considered contested.
Trump urges peace but doubles down on election falsehoods
On Twitter, Trump asked people to remain peaceful during the assault. He then posted a video on social media, asking people to go home — but not before reiterating his baseless claims about the election being stolen and saying: "You're very special."
Twitter and Facebook moved to restrict the reach of the video.
His response to the violence came just a few hours after a midday address to supporters outside the White House, in which he repeatedly denied the results of the election, claiming without evidence that it was rigged against his campaign.
"This election was stolen from you, from me, from the country," he said in the earlier remarks. He also urged his supporters to head to the Capitol, adding: "You'll never take back our country with weakness."
Vice President Pence more forcefully condemned the chaos, saying that the violence was an "attack on our Capitol" and tweeting that people involved must "immediately leave the building" and would be "prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."
Federal and local authorities scrambled to send forces to help secure the Capitol after it was overrun by the pro-Trump extremists. Reinforcements were also being deployed from the nearby states of Virginia, Maryland and New Jersey.
In a tweet, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany wrote that the National Guard had been called in at Trump's direction.
"We reiterate President Trump's call against violence and to remain peaceful," she wrote.
Law enforcement eventually gained control of the scene, ushering people out of the Capitol. The House Sergeant at Arms informed lawmakers and staff after 5 p.m. that the Capitol had been cleared.
Washington, D.C. instituted a 12-hour curfew that went into effect at 6 p.m. ET.
In mid-afternoon televised remarks, Biden called on Trump to "go on national television now to fulfill his oath and defend the Constitution and demand an end to this siege" at the Capitol.
"Let me be very clear," Biden added, "the scenes of chaos at the Capitol do not reflect a true America, do not reflect who we are," he said, calling the violent protesters a "small number of extremists dedicated to lawlessness."
"It borders on sedition and it must end now," Biden said. "It's not protest; it's insurrection."
"The President bears responsibility"
The events came as thousands of pro-Trump and far-right protesters congregated in downtown D.C. to contest the results of the presidential election.
Many Republicans, who spent the summer castigating the mostly peaceful protests against racial police violence, had previously encouraged demonstrations calling to overturn the election results.
But Republicans and Democrats blasted those who breached the Capitol, with many — including some in his own party — also blaming Trump for inciting the mob through his repeated claims of a stolen election.
"President Trump incited his followers to violence," Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said. "They stormed the Capitol and stopped the House and Senate in session."
"The President bears responsibility for today's events by promoting the unfounded conspiracy theories that have led to this point," Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., said in a statement. "It is past time to accept the will of American voters and to allow our nation to move forward."
Republican Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, a frequent critic of Trump, described the breach of the U.S. Capitol as "an insurrection, incited by the president of the United States."
Ben Sasse, a Republican senator from Nebraska, in a statement described the Capitol as being "ransacked while the leader of the free world cowered behind his keyboard."
He continued: "Lies have consequences. This violence was the inevitable and ugly outcome of the President's addiction to constantly stoking division."
"This is banana republic crap that we're watching happen right now," Republican Rep. Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin said in a video message from lockdown in his congressional office. "This is the cost of countenancing an effort by Congress to overturn the election and telling thousands of people that there is a legitimate shot of overturning the election today, even though you know that is not true.
"We have got to stop this. Mr. President, you have got to stop this," he said. "The election is over. Call it off."