Congress finalized President-elect Joe Biden’s election win early Thursday morning after a fraught and tumultuous day in which rioters stormed the Capitol, bringing the proceedings to a standstill and the building under siege for more than five hours.
With lawmakers’ nerves rattled and their passions inflamed by the attack on the seat of U.S. government, the House and Senate both rejected Republican objections to the Electoral College count – one focused on Arizona’s votes and a second on Pennsylvania’s.
The House and Senate votes to quash the objections came after intense debates in the two chambers over the strength of American democracy – and after many hours of chaos at the Capitol, during which lawmakers were sequestered in secure locations while police tried to regain control of the building.
In the wake of the riot, several Republicans dropped their planned bids to block the formal recognition of Biden’s electoral victory, saying the violence made them reconsider.
“The violence, the lawlessness and 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,” said Sen. Kelly Loeffler, a Georgia Republican who had planned to object to the Nov. 3 election results from her home state. Loeffler lost her runoff election on Tuesday to Democrat Raphael Warnock.
But others pressed ahead with what their colleagues described as a dangerous gambit that would only serve to undermine Americans’ confidence in the electoral system and fuel President Donald Trump’s false claims that the election was fraudulent – an assertion that has been repeatedly debunked and rejected by courts, election officials and state leaders.
In the Senate, more than 90 senators voted against excluding Arizona and Pennsylvania’s vote certifications, but a half-dozen Republicans voted in support of the move. Among them: Republican Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Josh Hawley of Missouri, Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi, John Kennedy of Louisiana, Roger Marshall of Kansas and Tommy Tuberville of Alabama.
In the House, Republicans were more divided. More than 100 of the chamber’s 211 GOP members voted to support the objections, while 64 joined the Democratic majority to defeat the measures.
The debate was not a presentation of new evidence or facts; some Republicans insisted they were not trying to overturn the election but rather were reflecting their constituents concerns about alleged fraud.
“I rise in hopes of improving the integrity of the ballot,” said Marshall, who was sworn in for his first term earlier this week. He provided no evidence of fraud and no reason the state’s results should be rejected.
Critics said Trump sowed doubt about the results and the GOP objections fueled the president’s false assertions. Trump’s own appointees have said there is no evidence to support his claims that the election was rigged against him.
Indeed, many Republicans slammed the objections and said Wednesday’s violence and riots showed the danger of such tactics.
“We gather due to a selfish man’s injured pride, and the outrage of supporters who he has deliberately misinformed for the past two months,” said Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah.
Romney called the attack on the Capitol “an insurrection incited by the president” and said those supporting Trump’s false claims would be judged harshly.
“Those who choose to continue to support his dangerous gambit by objecting to the results of a legitimate democratic election will forever be seen as being complicit in an unprecedented attack against our democracy,” he said. “That will be their legacy.”
There was bipartisan condemnation for the rioters who disrupted the proceedings Wednesday afternoon.
“Today was a dark day in the history of the United States Capitol,” Vice President Mike Pence, serving in his role as president of the Senate, said as he resumed the session just after 8 p.m. ET. “We condemn the violence that took place here in the strongest possible terms. We grieve the loss of life in these hallowed halls as well as those injured in our Capitol today.”
“To those who wreaked havoc in our Capitol today: You did not win.”
Pence ended his comments saying, “Let’s get back to work.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reconvened the House about an hour later, promising, “Our purpose will be accomplished.”
“We must and will show to the country, and indeed to the world, that we will not be diverted from our duty, that we will respect our responsibilities to the Constitution and to the American people.”
“To those who strove to deter us from our responsibility, you have failed,” Pelosi said. “To those who engaged in the gleeful discretion in this — our temple of democracy, American democracy — justice will be done.”
Even as lawmakers gathered in the House and Senate’s stately chambers, a phalanx of law enforcement officials from multiple agencies — some in tactical gear and carrying automatic weapons — were stationed outside and scattered across the Capitol grounds. They continued working to disperse the crowd outside who had gathered in support of Trump.
“They tried to disrupt our democracy,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said. “They failed. They failed. This failed insurrection only underscores how crucial the task before us is for our republic.”
Sen. Chuck Schumer, the top Democrat in the chamber, said the day would “live forever in infamy” along with other watershed events.
“This will be a stain on our country, not so easily washed away,” Schumer said. He called the attack on the Capitol “the final terrible, indelible legacy of the 45th president of the United States, undoubtedly our worst.”
“… This mob was in good part President Trump’s doing, incited by his words, his lies,” Schumer said. “This violence in good part is his responsibility, his everlasting shame.”
As the debate got underway, it became clear the riot had altered the tenor and trajectory of the session. The mood at the Capitol was subdued after it was cleared of rioters. Washington’s mayor had imposed a 6 p.m. curfew, and the city’s police chief said 52 individuals had been arrested on weapons charges and other offenses.
The police also said four people died around the Capitol grounds during rioting Wednesday, including one woman who was shot by police and three people who suffered medical emergencies.
“I cannot now in good conscience object to the certification of these voters,” said Loeffler.
In the House, another Republican said she would drop her objections.
“I have decided I will vote to uphold the Electoral College results and I encourage Donald Trump to condemn and put an end to this madness,” said Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash. “What happened today and continues to unfold in the nation’s capital is disgraceful and un-American.”
When the rioters breached the Capitol, lawmakers were in the middle of debating the objection to Arizona’s vote count. The pro-Trump extremists roamed the Capitol, vandalizing offices, sending lawmakers into sequester and threatening to upend a normally routine, uneventful ceremony.
Federal law requires a joint session of Congress meet on Jan. 6 at 1 p.m. after every presidential election to count the Electoral College votes submitted by states. But the law does not contemplate a delay in proceedings. Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will be sworn in on Jan. 20.
article originally appeared on USA TODAY.