Protesters enter the U.S. Capitol Building on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington, D.C. Congress held a joint session today to ratify President-elect Joe Biden’s 306-232 Electoral College win over President Donald Trump. A group of Republican senators said they would reject the Electoral College votes of several states unless Congress appointed a commission to audit the election results. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON — After a day of insurrection and deadly violence at the U.S. Capitol, lawmakers early Thursday certified Electoral College votes declaring Joe Biden the winner of the November presidential election.
But as they moved toward the certain outcome of victory for Biden, some Republicans backed away from their earlier objections to the certification.
That included Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) and Steve Daines (R-Mont.), who said they had changed their minds.
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“I cannot now in good conscience object to the certification of these electors,” Loeffler, who lost a runoff race in Georgia on Tuesday, said on the Senate floor. She added that the violence that played out was “a direct attack on the very institution my objection was intended to protect.”
The typically routine Electoral College process was interrupted Wednesday afternoon when pro-Trump rioters forced their way into the Capitol and on to the floor of the House and Senate, endangering lawmakers, staffers and reporters who were eventually evacuated to an undisclosed location.
That mayhem abruptly halted debate over an objection to Arizona’s electoral votes being cast for Biden — the first of what was expected to be a series of challenges from Republican lawmakers alleging broad claims of voter fraud that have failed in lawsuits brought by the legal team of President Donald Trump.
Nine hours after the Senate began considering the objection to Arizona’s electoral votes, senators rejected it, 93-6, late Wednesday. Republicans supporting the objection included Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri, Sen. Roger Marshall of Kansas and Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana.
Hawley, who had been the first senator to say he would object, outlined his complaints about Pennsylvania’s 2019 law expanding who is eligible to vote by mail.
That law, which was approved by a Republican-controlled state Legislature, was unsuccessfully challenged at Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court weeks after the November election.
Neither of Pennsylvania’s senators, Republican Pat Toomey and Democrat Bob Casey, supported Hawley’s objection to the state’s election process. Casey decried it as an “attempt to disenfranchise” Pennsylvania’s voters.
The Senate rejected the objection, 92-7. The House followed, 282-138.
Those objections and the day’s tumult did not change the final result announced by Vice President Mike Pence: a certification of Biden winning 306 electoral votes and Trump coming in second with 232.
As Congress resumed the certifying process, top lawmakers from both parties condemned the violent mob that stormed the Capitol as a group of “thugs” and “goons.”
“Criminal behavior will never dominate the United States Congress,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said.
Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) called it “one of the darkest days” in the nation’s history, casting blame on Trump, who had urged supporters rallying on the National Mall to march to the Capitol and did not seek to tamp down the violence.
“This mob was in great part President Trump’s doing,” Schumer said. “Today’s events certainly certainly would not have happened without him.”
While there have been fatal shootings and other violence at the Capitol, Wednesday’s insurrection was unlike anything seen in modern history. The last time the Capitol was breached was in 1814, when it was burned down by the British during the War of 1812.
The rioters swarmed past barricades and broke windows to enter the Capitol, which has been closed to the public amid the coronavirus pandemic. Photos and videos showed Trump supporters hanging off the balcony in the Senate chamber, and trespassing in the offices of lawmakers, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
In the House, lawmakers and Capitol Police officers had barricaded the entrance as rioters busted glass panels and defaced the walls. Outside that chamber, a woman was shot amid the melee and later died at a D.C. hospital.
Pelosi said the violent actions from the rioters would not prevent the House from doing their duty to certify the presidential election results.
“A shameful assault was made on our democracy,” she said.
On the House floor, Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) begged his Republican colleagues to withdraw their objections to the electoral college and to do the right thing and stop spreading falsehoods of election irregularities.
“It is time for you to save your soul,” he said. “It is time for you to save your country.”
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) condemned the mob that tore through the Capitol and called for respect for differing opinions. For weeks, McCarthy has supported GOP lawmakers in challenging the presidential results and has supported lawsuits to overturn results in states that Biden won.
“No one wins when this building and what it stands for, is destroyed,” he said.
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