Joint Session of Congress certifies Biden’s electoral victory after objections and riot
Should the joint session of Congress certify the Electoral College results?
By Eric Revell, Countable News
What's the story?
- The joint session of Congress concluded its certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory early Thursday morning. Proceedings began at 1pm on Wednesday but were brought to a halt for several hours after pro-Trump rioters breached the Capitol complex until law enforcement cleared the building to allow lawmakers to return to work.
- Objections to electoral results in Arizona and Pennsylvania were raised by Republicans, but large majorities in both chambers of Congress voted to reject the objections. You can look back at how the session played out below.
UPDATE 3:45am: Joint session of Congress completes Electoral College certification.
- After the House synced up with the Senate in rejecting the objection to the Pennsylvania results, the joint session of Congress certified the electoral results of the remaining states without much more deliberation.
- Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) raised an objection to Wisconsin’s electoral results, but because no senator joined the objection, it wasn’t qualified for further debate and a vote on the merits.
- President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris received 306 electoral votes, while President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence received 232 votes. Inauguration Day is Wednesday, January 20th.
- After Pence announced the result, he yielded the floor to Senate Chaplain Barry Black, who concluded the joint session with a prayer:
“We deplore the desecration of the U.S. Capitol building, the spilling of innocent blood, the loss of life, and the quagmire of dysfunction that threatens our democracy. These tragedies have reminded us that words matter and that the power of life and death is in the tongue.”
UPDATE 3:15am: House rejects objection to Pennsylvania results.
- The House voted 138-282 to reject the objection raised by Republicans to the electoral results from Pennsylvania. All lawmakers who voted in favor were Republicans.
- No further objections are expected, so the joint session of Congress will reconvene and continue the state-by-state certification of the Electoral College.
UPDATE 12:45am: Senate rejects Hawley’s objection to Pennsylvania results.
- After senators immediately yielded back all two hours of debate, the Senate overwhelmingly rejected the objection raised by Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) to Pennsylvania’s electoral results on a 7-92 vote. Hawley was joined by Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Cindy Hyde Smith (R-MS), Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), Roger Marshall (R-KS), Tommy Tuberville (R-AL), and Rick Scott (R-FL) in voting for the objection.
- The House is continuing to debate the Pennsylvania objection and will vote when either no more lawmakers wish to debate or the allotted two hours expire, whichever occurs first. The objection will likely be rejected by the House on a similar margin to the Arizona objection.
- No further objections are expected to the Electoral College results, so after the House vote, the certification will proceed until it concludes.
UPDATE 12:15am: House & Senate split from joint session to consider objection to Pennsylvania’s electoral results.
- Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA) raised an objection to the electoral vote from Pennsylvania that was joined by Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), so the House and Senate are heading to their respective chambers for deliberations.
- By rule, up to two hours of debate are permitted, although it’s possible that time may be yielded back if lawmakers wish to speed up proceedings.
- Once the House and Senate are done with their respective debates, they will vote on the objection, and it will likely be rejected by a margin similar to the Arizona objection earlier in the process.
UPDATE 12:05am: House GOP efforts to raise objections to Georgia, Michigan, and Nevada fail.
- Several House Republicans attempted to raise objections to additional states, but failed to convince a senator to join them.
- Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA) raised an objection to Georgia’s results, but noted that Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) withdrew her objection, so his objection wasn’t qualified.
- Similarly, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) objected to Michigan and Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) objected to Nevada, and neither objection was joined by a senator.
- The results from Pennsylvania are expected to be objected to by Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) and a House Republican.
UPDATE 11:15pm: House rejects objection to Arizona election results, joint session reconvenes.
- The House voted 121-303 to reject the objection raised by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) to the electoral results from Arizona.
- Both chambers of Congress will reconvene in a joint session to resume the state-by-state certification of election results, although only a total of 44 lawmakers will be allowed on the floor due to social distancing (a restriction in place prior to today’s unrest).
- Once the joint session formally resumes its business, the certification of Arkansas’s electoral results is next on the agenda. The next state that will likely be objected to is Pennsylvania, although it’s possible a senator and member could raise an objection to another state.
UPDATE 10:30pm: Senate rejects Cruz’s objection to Arizona’s results, House starts its vote.
- The objection raised by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) was overwhelmingly rejected by the Senate on a vote of 6-93. Cruz was joined by Sens. Josh Hawley (R-MO), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), John Kennedy (R-LA), Roger Marshall (R-KS), and Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) in voting in favor.
- The House concluded its debate on the Arizona objection shortly after the Senate's vote concluded. Because of social distancing guidelines and the House’s procedures, it has been taking the House about an hour for all members to vote during recent roll calls, so the House vote will likely conclude its vote between 11:30pm and midnight.
- Once both the House and Senate have concluded their votes, the joint session of Congress will reconvene and pick up where it left off in the alphabetical order of certification: Arkansas. The next objection expected is for Pennsylvania, although any objection submitted by a senator and member of House could be raised.
UPDATE 9:20pm: Hawley to press ahead with his objection.
- Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), who was the first GOP senator to announce that he would challenge the Electoral College results, condemned the violence at the Capitol and reiterated that he opposes the process by which the Pennsylvania legislature, governor, and supreme court dealt with the election.
- A spokesperson for Hawley clarified that he will object to the Pennsylvania result, but will yield back his post-objection speaking time in an effort to keep proceedings moving.
- After Hawley delivered his remarks, Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) spoke to defend the lawfulness of Pennsylvania’s election and echoed the statements made by his Keystone State colleague, Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), on the floor earlier in the day and in the press against the objection.
- Following Casey’s remarks, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) spoke against the objections by Hawley (whom Romney and Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK) glared at as he delivered his remarks). Romney said that no audit will convince the people who stormed the Capitol of the actual electoral results and that, "The best way we can show respect to thee voters who are upset is by telling them the truth!" Romney concluded that Congress must move forward with the certification process, urging unanimous support for Biden's certificat
UPDATE 9:10pm: House reconvenes as Senate debate continues.
- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) gaveled the House back into session and said, “Tonight, we will move forward with the certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s election,” and that the process will “take as long as it takes” after proceedings were interrupted by an “attack on democracy.”
- On the other side of the Capitol, at least one GOP senator announced that they will stick with their plan to object to the Electoral College results: freshman Sen. Roger Marshall (R-KS) spoke for five minutes about his concerns regarding election irregularities, in what were his first remarks on the floor as a senator.
UPDATE 9pm: Several Republican senators signal they will no longer object to Electoral College results.
- As the Senate winds down the debate on the Arizona objection, several GOP senators who had planned to join objections said that they will withdraw them.
- Sens. Steve Daines (R-MT) and James Lankford (R-OK) released a joint statement condemning the “destruction and violence” at the Capitol as an “assault on democracy.” Lankford spoke on the floor to reiterate that their objections will be withdrawn and emphasize, “We are heading tonight to the certification of Joe Biden as the next president of the United States.” Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN) told reporters that he won’t object either.
- Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA), who was planning to object to Georgia’s election results, said:
“When I arrived in Washington this morning, I fully intended to object to the certification of the electoral votes. However, the events that have transpired today have forced me to reconsider and I cannot now, in good conscience, object to the certification of these electors. The violence, the lawlessness, and the 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.”
UPDATE 8:10pm: Senate resumes Electoral College certification.
- Vice President Mike Pence returned to the chair to preside over the Electoral College certification and said, “To those who wreaked havoc in our Capitol today, you did not win. Violence never wins. Freedom wins. And this is still the People’s House.” He concluded, “Let’s get back to work.”
- Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) followed Pence’s remarks and said, “The United States Senate will not be intimidated. We will not be kept out of this chamber by thugs, mobs, or threats. 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.”
- Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) spoke third and echoed his predecessor’s gratitude to the law enforcement officers who cleared the Capitol. Schumer said, “This will be a stain on our country not so easily washed away, the final terrible, indelible legacy of the 45th president of the United States ― undoubtedly, our worst.” He concluded that “all this mob really accomplished was to delay our work by a few hours” and “democracy’s roots in this nation are deep and strong and they will not be undone ever by a group of thugs.”
- There was roughly 30 minutes of debate remaining at the time proceedings were stopped earlier.
UPDATE 7:30pm: Capitol cleared, Congress to resume Electoral College certification tonight.
- The joint session of Congress is expected to reconvene tonight to pick up where it left off prior to the suspension of proceedings due to a mob of President Trump’s supporters breaching the Capitol complex.
- Law enforcement announced the Capitol was cleared earlier this evening, prompting House and Senate leaders to begin preparations for the resumption of the certification.
- The Senate is expected to be the first to return sometime after 7:30pm as that corridor of the Capitol was secured earlier. The House chamber is still being prepared for lawmakers’ return, which may occur within the next hour.
- It’s unclear whether additional objections will be raised during the state-by-state Electoral College certification, as the House and Senate were in the middle of debating an objection to results from Arizona when proceedings were brought to a jarring halt.
UPDATE 4:30pm: Lawmakers hope to reconvene to complete certification once the Capitol complex is cleared.
- Law enforcement officials from multiple agencies are in the process of securing the Capitol, which may take an hour or more.
- Democratic Caucus Chair Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) and Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney (R-WY) told lawmakers that they will return to the House and Senate floors to continue the process of certifying the Electoral College vote once it's deemed safe to do so.
UPDATE 2:40pm: House and Senate sessions paused after protesters breach Capitol.
- The House and Senate went into recess after pro-Trump extremists breached security cordons around the Capitol. Members have been told to seek shelter in offices or behind barriers and to get escape hoods (eg gas masks) because tear gas is being used in the Capitol Rotunda.
- Vice President Mike Pence, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and Senate President Pro Tempore Chuck Grassley (R-IA) were rushed from the chambers because they are part of the line of succession, and rank-and-file members are being evacuated.
- Before the abrupt halt to proceedings, Sens. Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) spoke against the objection. In the House, Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL), Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA), and Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) spoke in favor of the opposition. Gosar lodged the objection and urged that Arizona’s slate of electors should be remanded back to Arizona until an audit is conducted.
- Rep. Joe Neguse (D-CO) spoke in opposition. He was joined by Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), who objected to Electoral College results in 2005 and 2017 following Republican presidential victories, spoke in opposition to Republicans’ objection urging them to “respect the will of voters” and prevent “further damage to our democracy.”
UPDATE 1:55pm: Debate underway in both chambers.
- Senate Majority Mitch McConnell (R-KY) kicked off the Senate debate and said that in his 36 years in the Senate, this is the “most important vote I’ve ever cast.” He pushed back on President Trump’s assertions that the election was stolen, citing the rejection of legal challenges by courts across the country, and added:
“But my colleagues, nothing before us proves illegality anywhere near the massive scale ― the massive scale that would’ve tipped the entire election. Nor can public doubt alone justify a radical break, when the doubt itself was incited without any evidence. The Constitution gives us here in Congress a limited role. We cannot simply declare ourselves a national board of elections on steroids.”
- McConnell concluded:
“I believe that protecting our constitutional order requires respecting the limits of our own power. It would be unfair and wrong to disenfranchise American voters and overrule courts and the states on this extraordinarily thin basis. And I will not pretend such a vote will be a harmless protest gesture while relying on other people to do the right thing. I will vote to respect the people’s decision and defend our system of government as we know it.
- Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) echoed that “there is no evidence of voter fraud” and that Republicans “know President Trump and his allies have suffered defeat in court after court across the country, losing no fewer than 62 legal challenges, and I might add many Republican judges ― some appointed by President Trump ― rendered those decisions.”
- Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who signed on to the objection in an effort to create an electoral commission to review claims of illegality and fraud
“Let me be clear, I am not arguing for setting aside the results of this election. All of us are faced with two choices, both of which are lousy. One choice is a vote against the objection and tens of millions of Americans will see a vote against the objection as a statement that voter fraud doesn’t matter, isn’t real, and shouldn’t be taken seriously. And a great many of us don’t believe that. On the other hand, most if not all of us believe we should not set aside the results of an election just because our candidate may not have prevailed. And so I endeavor to look for door number 3, a third option, and for that I look to history, the precedent of the 1876 election: the Hayes-Tilden election, where this Congress appointed an electoral commission to examine claims of voter fraud. Five House members, five Senators, and five Supreme Court justices examined the evidence and rendered a judgment. And what I would urge of this body is that we do the same, that we appoint an electoral commission to conduct a 10-day emergency audit, consider the evidence, and resolve the claims.”
- In the House, Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA), Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), Freedom Caucus Chairman Andy Biggs (R-AZ), Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) were the first speakers in favor of the objection.
- Rules Committee Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA), and Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) were the first speakers in opposition.
UPDATE 1:15pm: First GOP objection raised to Arizona’s electoral results, House and Senate go into separate sessions to consider and vote on the challenge.
- Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) along with 60 other House Republicans raised an objection to Arizona’s electoral results that was joined by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-AZ).
- The House and Senate each go into separate sessions that will feature up to two hours of debate on the issue, followed by a vote on whether to agree to the objection and exclude the challenged electoral votes, or reject it.
- Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) will preside over the House session, while Vice President Mike Pence or Senate President Pro Tempore Chuck Grassley (R-IA) will chair the Senate’s proceedings.
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