The U.S. Congress finally affirmed President-elect Joe Biden’s election victory early Thursday, after an Electoral College vote count that was interrupted by both Republican objections and supporters of President Donald Trump who violently sieged the Capitol.
Vice-President Mike Pence declared Biden and vice-president-elect Kamala Harris the winners of November’s election, putting the final nail in the coffin for Trump’s hopes that the results could be overturned, either by Pence or Republican lawmakers.
Those hopes had helped lead supporters to storm the Capitol building Wednesday, interrupting the vote count and debates resulting from Republican efforts to strike down the results of battleground states. Four people were killed over the course of the riot, which forced lawmakers to shelter in their offices and the House chamber for hours.
Trump has spent months falsely claiming the election was stolen from him through widespread voter fraud, which has been debunked by multiple officials. He urged his supporters on Wednesday and the days before to put pressure on Republicans to mount challenges to the electoral vote.
With Democrats in control of the House and top Senate Republicans vocally against objecting to the vote, the efforts were doomed to fail before they began. Biden and Harris will be inaugurated on Jan. 20.
In a statement released by his communications staff shortly after Pence’s declaration, Trump promised there will be an orderly transition of power “even though I totally disagree with the outcome of the election.”
“While this represents the end of the greatest first term in presidential history, it’s only the beginning of our fight to Make America Great Again!” the statement read.
Republicans had mounted an objection to Arizona’s electors before protesters breached the Capitol. After police finally cleared the building, the required debate over the objection resumed.
Yet the chaos of the day appeared to force some Republicans to reconsider, with senators openly stating during the debate that they would no longer object to any certifications of the vote.
Under U.S. law, any objection to a state’s electors must be submitted by both a member of the House of Representatives and a senator. Originally, 13 Republican senators had said they would join the more than 100 House members in objecting.
Once a vote was called, however, only six Senators supported the objection to Arizona’s electors. All other senators against.
The objection also failed in the House by a margin of 303-121 on Wednesday night, with only Republicans voting in support.
Once the two chambers resumed their joint session and continued counting each state’s electors, it became clear that the Republican effort to object to multiple states was largely quashed.
Despite House members’ efforts, objections to the elections in Georgia, Michigan and Nevada were shot down when senators withdrew their support.
An objection to Pennsylvania’s electors was later joined by Sen. Josh Hawley, forcing the two chambers to once again split for debate.
Yet Hawley said he would not give remarks after earlier speaking during the debate over Arizona. The Senate declined to debate the objection at all, leading to another defeat of the motion, this time by a margin of 92-7.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he believed no other states’ votes will be challenged. But the senators still had to wait for the debate in the House to conclude, which didn’t happen until close to 3 a.m. ET. The House also rejected the Pennsylvania objection.
A final attempt to object to the count, this time for the state of Wisconsin, was quickly defeated after an unnamed senator withdrew their support.
Hawley had argued in the earlier Arizona debate that he was doing his Constitutional duty by voicing concerns about election integrity, despite those concerns being based almost entirely on false and debunked claims of fraud.
Even before the Capitol was breached, McConnell said offered a strong rebuke to the challenge, saying the country “cannot keep drifting apart into two separate tribes,” adding that the attempt to overturn the election results would “damage the republic forever.”
“The voters, the courts and the states all have spoken,” McConnell said.
Once it resumed, the debate saw many Republicans condemn their colleagues for delaying the inevitable certification of Biden’s win, particularly in light of the day’s events when protesters breached the Capitol. Senators traced the protesters’ anger directly to statements from Trump and other Republicans questioning the election’s legitimacy.
Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, the Republican 2012 nominee, reminded his colleagues that he knows how unpleasant it is to lose a presidential election, drawing hearty laughter.
But he earned an enthusiastic, spontaneous round of applause with a simple observation: “The best way we could show respect for the voters who are upset is by telling them the truth. And the truth is, president-elect Biden won this election.”
While Romney has long criticized Trump and was the only Republican who voted to remove him from office after the president’s impeachment, some of Trump’s supporters in Congress also moved to end the debate over the election.
“Trump and I, we had a hell of a journey. I hate it being this way,” said South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, a close ally. “From my point of view, he’s been a consequential president. But today … all I can say is count me out. Enough is enough.”
Senators including Kelly Loeffler of Georgia, who was defeated in Tuesday’s runoff election, said they would no longer object to her state’s election in light of the Wednesday’s events.
In the House, Republicans repeated baseless claims of voter fraud during both debates, while Democrats pointed out that those claims had been rejected by courts and state officials alike.
The Pennsylvania debate hinged on allegations from Republicans that election laws changed to allow more absentee voting amid the coronavirus pandemic were approved unconstitutionally. The arguments ignored that mail-in voting had been expanded before the pandemic by a Republican-led legislature, and that objections to the law were not made during the state primaries last spring.
Democratic Pennsylvania Rep. Connor Lamb sparked outcry early Thursday from Republicans after saying Wednesday’s riot was “inspired by lies, the same lies that you’re hearing in this room tonight.”
After Republicans raised objections, Republican Rep. Andy Harris and Democratic Rep. Colin Allred began to yell at each other to “sit down” from across the floor.
A confrontation in the aisle of the House floor followed, with several members of both parties clearing from the seats on their respective sides to try and break up the confrontation.
Biden won all the states that were subject to Republican objections, securing enough Electoral College votes to win the presidency.
–With files from the Associated Press