Congress finalized President-elect Joe Biden’s election win early Thursday morning after a fraught and tumultuous day in which rioters stormed the Capitol, bringing the proceedings to a standstill and the building under siege for more than five hours.
With lawmakers’ nerves rattled and their passions inflamed by the attack on the seat of U.S. government, the House and Senate both rejected Republican objections to the Electoral College count – one focused on Arizona’s votes and a second on Pennsylvania’s.
The House and Senate votes to quash the objections came after intense debates in the two chambers over the strength of American democracy – and after many hours of chaos at the Capitol, during which lawmakers were sequestered in secure locations while police tried to regain control of the building.
In the wake of the riot, several Republicans dropped their planned bids to block the formal recognition of Biden’s electoral victory, saying the violence made them reconsider.
“The violence, the lawlessness and siege of the halls of Congress are abhorrent and stand as a direct attack on the very institution my objection was intended to protect: the sanctity of the American democratic process,” said Sen. Kelly Loeffler, a Georgia Republican who had planned to object to the November 3 election results from her home state. Loeffler lost her runoff election on Tuesday to Democrat Raphael Warnock.
But others pressed ahead with what their colleagues described as a dangerous gambit that would only serve to undermine Americans’ confidence in the electoral system and fuel President Donald Trump’s false claims that the election was fraudulent – an assertion that has been repeatedly debunked and rejected by courts, election officials and state leaders.
In the Senate, more than 90 senators voted against excluding Arizona and Pennsylvania’s vote certifications, but a half-dozen Republicans voted in support of the move. Among them: Republican Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Josh Hawley of Missouri, Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi, John Kennedy of Louisiana, Roger Marshall of Kansas and Tommy Tuberville of Alabama.
In the House, Republicans were more divided. More than 100 of the chamber’s 211 GOP members voted to support the objections, while 64 joined the Democratic majority to defeat the measures.
The debate was not a presentation of new evidence or facts; some Republicans insisted they were not trying to overturn the election but rather were reflecting their constituents concerns about alleged fraud.
“I rise in hopes of improving the integrity of the ballot,” said Marshall, who was sworn in for his first term earlier this week. He provided no evidence of fraud and no reason the state’s results should be rejected.
Critics said Trump sowed doubt about the results and the GOP objections fueled the president’s false assertions. Trump’s own appointees have said there is no evidence to support his claims that the election was rigged against him.
Indeed, many Republicans slammed the objections and said Wednesday’s violence and riots showed the danger of such tactics.
“We gather due to a selfish man’s injured pride, and the outrage of supporters who he has deliberately misinformed for the past two months,” said Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah.