Congress certified President-elect, Joe Biden and Vice President-elect, Kamala Harris’ victory early on Thursday, bringing an end to a long day and night marked by chaos and violence in Washington, in which extremists emboldened by President Donald Trump sought to thwart the peaceful transfer of power by staging a violent insurrection inside the United States Capitol.
“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,” Vice President Mike Pence said after lawmakers reconvened following many hours in lockdown.
Biden and Harris finished with 306 electoral votes, while Trump and Pence had 232. It takes 270 electoral votes to win the presidency.
Dozens of Republican House lawmakers, along with some Republican senators supporting Trump, had planned to object Wednesday to the electoral votes of as many as six states that backed Biden.
But late Wednesday night, some Senate Republicans withdrew their objections. Each objection requires the backing of a member of both the House and the Senate to be considered. Senators Steve Daines of Montana, Mike Braun of Indiana and Kelly Loeffler of Georgia all said that they would stand down.
“I cannot now, in good conscience, object to the certification of these electors,” Loeffler said on Wednesday, drawing applause from some of her colleagues. Loeffler was one of two Republicans who lost their races on Tuesday, giving Democrats control of the Senate.
Missouri Republican Senator, Josh Hawley, who took up President Trump’s call that lawmakers object to the results of the election, said Wednesday night that the Senate should consider his objections, but that they should be debated “without violence, without attacks, without bullets.”
Senate lawmakers voted late Wednesday to reject the challenge to Biden’s victory in the state of Arizona, and the House followed suit, but with many Republicans in favour of overturning the state’s results. A similar result played out in the state of Pennsylvania, with both chambers voting to reject the challenge to Biden’s victory there.
Republican House lawmakers also objected to the electoral votes in Georgia, Michigan, Nevada and Wisconsin, but no senator would join in those objections.
“In that case, the objection cannot be entertained,” Pence said repeatedly, chairing the proceedings in his role as president of the Senate.
So the count continued, state by state, with Vermont’s three electoral votes putting Biden and Harris over the 270 mark, until finally Wyoming’s three electoral votes were tallied for Trump and Pence.
The process to affirm Biden’s victory began in the early afternoon of Wednesday. The typically ceremonial affair, an affirmation of the democratic process, was expected to be a long endeavour because of objections planned by Trump’s congressional allies, despite the fact that they were certain to be met with bi-partisan defeat.
But as the process began, a mob of pro-Trump extremists stormed the Capitol Wednesday afternoon, bringing the counting of the electoral votes to a halt.
Lawmakers were evacuated from the building as the violent, chaotic scene played out, prompting a citywide curfew. A woman was killed by a Capitol Police officer on Wednesday night; D.C. police said three other people died from medical emergencies in the surrounding area.
Around 8pm, hours after the Capitol was breached, lawmakers were cleared to return to finish debate and tallying the Electoral College votes.
In separate speeches in their respective chambers, House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell vowed to press ahead with the business at hand.
“We will not bow to lawlessness or intimidation. We are back at our posts,” McConnell said, adding, “and we’re going to do it tonight.”