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US Congress certifies Biden win in wake of pro-Trump supporters storming Capitol Building

The US House and Senate resumed debating Republican challenges to Joe Biden’s election overnight.

Updated Jan 7th 2021, 8:35 AM

congress-electoral-college Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Mike Pence officiate as a joint session of the House and Senate overnight. Source: Erin Schaff via PA Images

THE US CONGRESS has affirmed President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the November election, after a riot by Donald Trump supporters forced a delay in the process.

A joint session of Congress approved the electoral votes of all 50 states one by one overnight.

Congress rejected an objection by some Republican politicians to accepting the electoral votes in a number of states, including in Arizona and Pennsylvania. 

Other objections to results from Georgia, Michigan and Nevada also fizzled without enough support from senators.

The process to approve the 306-232 Electoral College votes from the November election was delayed when rioters supporting Trump stormed the Capitol Hill building.

Trump supporters broke through barricades and swarmed inside, rampaging through offices and engaging in standoffs with police – triggering unprecedented chaos and violence that drew condemnation from around the world.

White House Deputy Chief of Staff Dan Scavino tweeted out Donald Trump’s reaction to Joe Biden’s election win being certified:

“Even though I totally disagree with the outcome of the election, and the facts bear me out, nevertheless there will be an orderly transition on January 20th.

“I have always said we would continue our fight to ensure that only legal votes were counted. 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!”

vice-president-mike-pence-walks-into-the-house-chamber-dc US Vice President Mike Pence walks into the House Chamber. Source: Lamkey Rod/CNP/ABACA

For more than two centuries, the joint session of Congress has been a quiet, ceremonial event that formally certifies the election winner. Last night is possibly the first time that the Capitol had been taken over since 1814, when the British burned the building.

‘Let’s get back to work’

The Senate resumed their work in debating Republican challenges more than six hours after pro-Trump mobs attacked the Capitol and forced lawmakers to flee.

Scores of Republican House Reps and 13 Senators had planned to object to the electoral votes of several states that backed Joe Biden.

Questions had been asked whether some Republicans who support Trump’s false electoral fraud claims would change their minds after the Capitol was stormed.

pence A screenshot taken from when the voting was ongoing. Source: C-Span

After deliberations resumed, Senators voted 93 to 6 against the effort to reject Arizona’s 11 electoral votes. The House of Representatives voted 303-121 against the objection, with 82 Republicans siding with the Democrats.

At 8.30am Irish time, the Senate rejected an objection to accepting Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes, with seven votes in favour and 92 votes against. 

‘What America is made of’

President Donald Trump has falsely insisted that the election was marred by fraud and that he actually won, despite failing several times in US courts to successfully argue this point.

He has been pressuring Mike Pence to reject the election result using his power as US Vice President.

JUST IN: Vice President Mike Pence leaves Senate chamber, does not answer reporter asking, "Does the President have some responsibility for what happened today?" pic.twitter.com/TiJeNljZ1a

— The Hill (@thehill) January 7, 2021

As the Senate reconvened, Mike Pence told House Representatives and Senators:

“It is my considered judgment that my oath to support and defend the Constitution constrains me from claiming unilateral authority to determine which electoral votes should be counted and which should not.”

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said Trump “bears a great deal of the blame” for the actions of the mob, adding the events “did not happen spontaneously”.

Schumer also said 6 January 2021 will “live forever in infamy”.

Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell, closely aligned with Trump throughout his presidency, had tried to prevent the objections to the electoral votes. He noted that the election results were not even close, and that dozens of courts had thrown out lawsuits alleging irregularities.

“If this election were overturned by mere allegations from the losing side, our democracy would enter a death spiral,” McConnell said.

House speaker Nancy Pelosi said Congress’ certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s election win was a statement to the world.

She said: “Despite the shameful actions of today … we will be part of a history that shows the world what America is made of.”

Republican switch

Senator Mitt Romney, one of Trump’s most vocal critics inside the Republican Party, pointedly said that the best way to respect voters “is to tell them the truth”.

“Those who continue to support this dangerous gambit,” Romney said, “will forever be seen as being complicit in an unprecedented attack against our democracy.”

congress-electoral-college Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer applauds after no Republican senator joined a House objection to confirming the Electoral College votes from Nevada. Source: Andrew Harnik

But Senator Josh Hawley, who has taken the lead on the effort and is seen as a future Republican presidential aspirant, insisted on going ahead even after the mob attack.

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“Violence is not how you achieve change,” the 41-year-old senator said, insisting that he wanted to offer a “lawful process” to Trump supporters to assess their unfounded claims of fraud.

Multiple Republican senators reversed course and didn’t object to congressional certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.

Senators Steve Daines of Montana, Mike Braun of Indiana and Kelly Loeffler of Georgia all said in the aftermath of the violence that they would stand down from their previous objections to Biden’s win.

Loeffler, who lost a Senate race to Raphael Warnock yesterday, said that the “violence, the lawlessness, and siege of the halls of Congress” were a “direct attack” on the “sanctity of the American democratic process”.

All three had previously signed on to Donald Trump’s false claims of widespread voter fraud to explain his defeat.

The formal acceptance of the election result paves the way for Joe Biden’s inauguration on 20 January.

© – AFP 2021, with reporting from the Press Association and Gráinne Ní Aodha

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