Escorted back to their chambers by heavily armed security personnel, US lawmakers took their seats late on Wednesday evening, looking grim but determined to finish their task: and they did. At around 3.41am on Thursday, US Congress certified President-elect Joe Biden’s election victory.
All Democrats and most Republicans voted to reject two objections raised by Republican allies of outgoing President Donald Trump – electoral college results reported by Arizona and Pennsylvania, two of the seven key states that caused the president’s defeat.
Some Republicans who had planned to object announced they had changed their minds.
“When I arrived in Washington this morning, I fully intended to object to the certification of the electoral votes,” said Senator Kelly Loeffler, a Republican. “However, the events that have transpired today have forced me to reconsider and I cannot now, in good conscience, object.”
Loeffler and David Perdue, both incumbent Republican senators from the state of Georgia, lost to their Democratic rivals Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, which transferred control of the Senate to Democrats.
“Trump and I’ve had a hell of a journey,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, a close Republican ally of Trump. “I hate it being this way. Oh my god! I hate it… but today, all I can say is, count me out. Enough is enough. I tried to be helpful.”
The objection to Arizona was defeated in a 303- 121 vote in Democratic-controlled House of Representatives and by 93- 6 in the Republican-controlled Senate, which was a stinging rebuke of the president and his Republican backers.
And the objection to the certification of the Pennsylvania result was defeated 282-138 in the House and 92-7 in the Senate.
Most Republicans had been opposed to the objections, calling them an unconstitutional overreach, as an attempt to replace people’s right to elect with the will of the Congress.
“The constitution gives Congress a limited role. We cannot simply declare ourselves a national board of elections on steroids,” Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell had said in remarks in the chamber when it broke from the joint session to discuss the Arizona objection, before the rioters broke in. “The voters, the courts, and the states have all spoken. If we overrule them all, it would damage our republic forever.”
McConnell had set the tone for Republican lawmakers after they had reconvened. “The United States Senate will not be intimidated. We will not be kept out of this chamber by thugs, mobs… We will not bow to lawlessness or intimidation. We are back in our posts. We will discharge our duty under the constitution. Of our nation. And we’re going to do it tonight.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, tweeted, “Today’s shameful assault on our democracy – anointed at the highest level of government – must not deter us from our responsibility to the constitution. Tonight, we will move forward with the certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s election.”