The U.S. Congress pushed through with their count of the Electoral College votes late into the night Wednesday, undeterred after a violent siege of the Capitol by supporters of President Donald Trump disrupted the proceedings.
The riot, which saw four people killed and forced lawmakers to shelter in their offices for hours, came after Trump urged his followers to pressure Republicans to mount a challenge to the electoral vote, which are set to confirm President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. Trump has spent months falsely claiming the election was stolen from him through widespread voter fraud, which has been debunked by multiple officials.
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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.
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Once a vote was called, however, only six Senators supported the objection to Arizona’s electors. All other senators voted to sustain the objection.
In the House, the objection failed 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.
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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 says he believes no other states’ votes will be challenged, opening the possibility that Biden’s win would become official later into the wee hours of Thursday morning.
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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.
That 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.
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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.”
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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 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 of the president. “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.
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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.
House Republicans also condemned the violent protests, with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy commenting it was the “saddest day” he’s ever had in Congress.
“Mobs don’t rule America. Laws rule America. It was true when our cities were burning this summer and it is true now,” McCarthy said, referring to sometimes violent protests for racial justice last year.
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
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