WASHINGTON, D.C. – The US Senate resumed session around 8 p.m. ET on Wednesday after a six-hour disruption after a number of Republican members of Congress objected to the counting of the Electoral College.
Nearly eight hours after resuming, President-elect Joe Biden's victory was confirmed by Congress.
Both the House and the Senate abruptly went into an extended recess at about 2:15 p.m. ET when the U.S. Capitol was placed on lockdown due to Pro-Trump protesters who stormed the building. The interruption came as the House and Senate were both in session, weighing an objection to counting the Electoral College electors from Arizona.
After the six-hour break, the Senate and House both voted to reject the objections.
After the House and Senate reconvened, GOP members failed to have a member of the Senate join in objections to the counting of electors from the states of Georgia, Michigan and Nevada. But Sen. John Hawley objected to the state of Pennsylvania, which caused the two bodies to return to their separate chambers to debate the objection.
The House and Senate both dismissed the Pennsylvania challenge, leading to the final tallying of the votes shortly before 4 a.m. ET.
Lawmakers in attendance, including congressional leadership and Vice President Mike Pence, were evacuated and taken to secured locations as law enforcement worked to secure the Capitol.
When the Capitol was declared secure, Pelosi issued a statement, calling the actions of the protesters “a shameful assault” on our democracy. However, she said it can’t deter Congress from their responsibility to validate the election. Pelosi said lawmakers will return to the Capitol Wednesday night and they may be there for a while.
“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,” wrote Pelosi.
What happened before lockdown of Capitol
Before the Capitol was placed on lockdown, Congress had begun its joint session in the Constitutionally mandated process to tally the Electoral College votes and formally select president-elect Joe Biden the winner of the 2020 election.
After certifying the results from Alabama and Alaska, Republicans lawmakers, led by Sen. Ted Cruz and Rep. Paul Gosar, objected to the Electoral College votes from the state of Arizona. Both the House and the Senate then went to their own chambers to debate.
When session resumed, a number of GOP senators who planned on objecting dropped their objections. The US Senate dismissed the Arizona objection by a 93-6 margin.
In the Senate, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was the first to speak during their debate and he spoke out against objecting to the Electoral College results.
"If this election were overturned by mere allegations from the losing side, our democracy would enter a death spiral," said McConnell. "We'd never see our country accept an election again."
Cruz later spoke and explained why he was objecting. He said many Americans believe the election wasn’t conducted fairly. To combat these doubts, he’s calling for a commission to “conduct a 10-day emergency audit” to investigate claims of voter fraud, which are unfounded.
“The Constitution gives to Congress the responsibility this day to count the votes. The framers knew what they were doing when they gave responsibilities to Congress. We have a responsibility, and I would urge that we follow the precedent of 1877.”
Soon after their remarks, both chambers of Congress abruptly recessed and the building was placed on lockdown due to the crowd that was breaking in.
While President Donald Trump and his allies viewed the session as a last-ditch chance to overturn the results of the election, most legal experts agree that there was no chance that would happen.
Officially, Wednesday’s session was held to formally count the Electoral College votes that were submitted by every state on Dec. 14. That day, electors packed statehouses (or participated virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic) and upheld Biden’s 306-222 victory over Trump in the general election. Those results were then signed by electors, sealed by political leaders and sent to the Capitol building.
The Constitution mandates that Wednesday’s Congressional session be led by Mike Pence, who also serves as the president of the Senate. During that session, Pence’s role was to unseal those results and preside over the official tallying of the votes.
While Trump has publicly pressured Pence in recent days to “reject” the results on the unproven basis of widespread voter fraud, the Constitution does not formally grant the vice president that power. Pence released a statement at the beginning of the session, saying he wouldn't interfere with the process.
As Pence unseals state results in alphabetical order, four “tellers” — one Democrat and one Republican from each chamber — announced the results to their colleagues. That process will continued until all states are tallied — or until an objection is raised about the results in a given state.
Pence stayed on Capitol Hill
While Pence was removed from the US Senate, he remained on site as violent protests took place on site.
Vice President @Mike_Pence has returned to the Senate. He never left the Capitol.@VP was in regular contact w/ House & Senate leadership, Cap Police, DOJ, & DoD to facilitate efforts to secure the Capitol & reconvene Congress.— Devin O’Malley (@VPPressSec) January 7, 2021
And now we will finish the People’s business.