Hours after a mob of supporters of President Donald Trump swarmed the U.S. Capitol, lawmakers returned to the building to begin again the process of certifying the Electoral College results, thereby allowing Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to be sworn in as president and vice president, respectively, on Jan. 20.
“You did not win. Violence never wins,” Vice President Mike Pence said as the Senate resumed its vote count late Wednesday.
U.S. Capitol Police and federal, state and local law enforcement cleared the Trump supporters from the Capitol grounds, securing the chambers for Senate and House members to return.
Pence urged the Senate to “get back to work” and begin debating the Republican challenge to Biden’s presidential election victory.
However, several Republican senators who had planned to object to the congressional certification said they would no longer do so, citing the violent mob action during which one woman was fatally shot.
As the Senate picked up action, Senators Steve Daines of Montana, Mike Braun of Indiana and Kelly Loeffler of Georgia all said they no longer planned to object to Biden’s win.
The House also resumed discussions late Wednesday.
House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced after the hours of chaos around the white-columned edifice that legislators would reconvene to continue the work of certifying the Electoral College vote that determines the next president.
“Today, a shameful assault was made on our democracy,” Pelosi said. “It was anointed at the highest level of government. It cannot, however, deter us from our responsibility to validate the election of Joe Biden,” she said.
The clashes came about two hours after Pence told lawmakers in a letter he would not attempt to block congressional certification of Biden’s victory in the November election, even though Trump, Pence’s boss, repeatedly implored him to stop Biden’s path to the White House after his Jan. 20 inauguration.
Trump, in an early morning Twitter comment and later at a rally with several thousand supporters near the White House, called on Pence to show “extreme courage” to block Biden’s victory.
However, when Pence balked, Trump, who has railed for weeks against the election outcome, rebuked his second-in-command, saying on Twitter, “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving States a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify. USA demands the truth!”
As the debate started, some Republican lawmakers supporting Trump immediately challenged the outcome in the Southwestern state of Arizona, which Biden narrowly won.
The Senate and House, as planned, immediately split into separate debates on the merits of the challenge to the Arizona result.
Senate Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell opposed a dozen Republican colleagues in the Senate and more than 100 House members seeking to upend the Electoral College outcome.
“The voters, the courts the states have all spoken,” McConnell said. “They’ve all spoken. If we overruled them it would damage our republic forever. This election was actually not unusually close,” he said. Biden won the popular vote by more than 7 million votes.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York said, “The Congress does not determine the outcome of elections, the people do. By the end of the proceedings today, it will be confirmed once again, something that is well known, and well settled: The American people elected Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to be the next president and vice president of the United States.”
“But,” Schumer continued, Republicans “are going to object to the counting of the vote anyway, and in the process, they will embarrass themselves, they will embarrass their party, and worst of all, it will embarrass our country.”
Republican lawmakers seeking to block the certification of the Electoral College outcome echoed Trump’s claims that vote and vote-counting irregularities should void the election outcome.
Both houses of Congress would have to reject the electoral votes in several states for the result to change, which will not happen.
Democrats narrowly control the House and are certain to support Biden. In the Senate, the minority Democratic bloc was joined by numerous Republicans who have acknowledged Biden’s victory.