Congress overwhelmingly defeated an effort to reject President-elect Joe Biden‘s electoral victory in Arizona, setting the stage for what could be final confirmation of his national victory over President Donald Trump by early Thursday morning.
The separate votes in both chambers of Congress came as it resumed the process of counting Electoral College votes at about 8 p.m. ET Wednesday, hours after swarms of Trump’s supporters broke into the U.S. Capitol and derailed the proceedings for around six hours.
A woman who was among the invaders was shot and killed during the riot by Capitol Police, and three other people died from medical emergencies.
The leaders of both the Republican and Democratic caucuses in the Senate vowed when they resumed proceedings that Congress would confirm Biden’s election “tonight.”
But Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., joined more than 80 Republican House members in objecting to the slate of Biden electors from Pennsylvania at around 12:15 a.m. ET Thursday.
That objection led members of the Senate to return to their chamber to debate, for up to two hours, the question of whether to sustain the objection, and the House to hold its own debate on the issue.
The objection is expected to be defeated handily, just as the objection to the Arizona electors failyed.
Just six GOP senators voted against Biden’s Arizona electoral votes being counted as legitimate: Hawley, Ted Cruz of Texas, Alabama freshman Tommy Tuberville, John Kennedy of Louisiana, Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi, and Roger Marshall of Kansas.
In the House, 121 Republicans voted to sustain the objection to Arizona’s slate, among them Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, and Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiania, the Minority Whip. But 303 other House members voted against the measure.
Before the riot, there were concerns it could take many hours, or even days, to confirm Biden won the Electoral College with 306 votes to Trump’s 232 because of expected objections to individual states’ electors by some Republican senators and House members.
Those objections were based on claims by Trump and others that he was swindled out of winning a second term because of widespread ballot fraud in a handful of battleground states, a claim for which there is no credible evidence.
There was no expectation, however, that Biden ever would be denied his ultimate victory, because it would take both a majority in both chambers of Congress to reject a state’s electors.
Democrats control the House of Representatives, guaranteeing that they would defeat any challenge in that chamber.
In the Senate, the effort is doomed because while Republicans still hold a slim majority there, many GOP senators were opposed to overturning the election results from any state.
Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., who lost a special election Tuesday night, said on the Senate floor before the vote that she would not object to counting of votes for Biden, despite having said earlier this week that she would do so.
“The events that have transpired today have forced me to reconsider, and I cannot now, in good conscience, object,” Loeffler said, referring to the riot.
After the challenge to Arizona’s electors failed in the House, senators went to the House to resume the process of Vice President Mike Pence presiding over the opening of ballots from individual states, and asking if there are any objections to the results.
It takes just one House member and one senator to challenge a state’s results, triggering up to two hours of debates in the chambers separately.
House members’ objections to Biden electors from Georgia, Michigan, and Nevada — all of which were crucial to his victory — failed to delay the count, because no senator joined in objections for those states.
But the count stalled when Pence asked if there were objections for Pennsylvania, which Hawley joined in.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., in a letter to colleagues said that the decision to quickly resume counting votes on the heels of the riot was made in consultation with political leaders including Pence.
“Our purpose will be accomplished,” Pelosi said as she reconvened the House’s session, about an hour after the Senate resumed its own proceedings.
“Today was a dark day in the history of the United States Capitol,” Pence said as he opened the session in the Senate.
“We condemn the violence that took place here in the strongest possible terms,” the vice president, who previously served as a congressman from Indiana
“The violence was quelled, the Capitol is secured, and the people’s work continues,” Pence said.
“To those who wreaked havoc in our Capitol today, you did not win. Violence never wins. Freedom wins,” he said.
“Let’s get back to work.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said, “The United States Senate will not be intimidated.”
“We are back at our posts, we will discharge our duty,” McConnell said. “We assembled this afternoon to count our citizens’ votes, and to formalize their choice of president.”
“We will certify the winner of the 2020 presidential election,” he concluded.
Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., blasted Trump, whom he called “undoubtedly our worst president,” and whom he said “bears a great deal of the blame” for the riot.
“This mob was in good part President Trump’s doing,” said Schumer. “His responsibility, his everlasting shame.”
Schumer compared the invasion of the Capitol complex by a horde of people to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, saying Jan. 6, 2021, will be another “day of infamy” in American history.
“This temple of democracy was desecrated,” he said. “This will be stain on our country, not so easily washed away.”
“We will begin the hard work of repairing the country tonight.”
The pro-Trump mob triggered lockdowns and evacuations at the Capitol, forcing lawmakers out of the House and Senate chambers shortly after the proceedings began at 1 p.m.
Rioters were recorded walking the halls of the government building, entering politicians’ offices and occupying the Senate chamber.
This is developing news. Please check back for updates