Hours after recessing due to a mob that stormed the capitol building, a joint session of Congress early Thursday turned back objections and certified Joe Biden as the next president.
The late-night vote came after protesters pushed their way past barriers earlier in the day and walked through the capitol, even making their way to the floors of the House and Senate. The protests left four dead.
Vice President Mike Pence – who has the constitutional duty to oversee the joint session of the counting of electoral ballots – called it a “dark day in the history of the United States capitol” but said Congress would not be deterred.
“To those who wreaked havoc in our Capitol today: You did not win. Violence never wins. Freedom wins. And this is still the people's House. … Let’s get back to work,” he said to applause in the U.S. Senate. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) labeled the protests a “failed insurrection.”
The joint session certified Biden as the winner of 306 electoral votes and President Trump as the winner of 232. Trump, in an early morning statement, said “there will be an orderly transition on January 20th,” the day of the inauguration.
The day began with the expectation that several states could spark roll-call votes, but in the end only two – Arizona and Pennsylvania – garnered the necessary signatures from at least one House member and one Senate member. In both instances, the two bodies went to their chambers for debate and then a vote.
Republican Sens. Ted Cruz (Texas) and Josh Hawley (Mo.) each urged the Senate to support a committee that would conduct a 10-day emergency audit in disputed states.
“Recent polling shows that 39 percent of Americans believe the election that just occurred – quote – ‘was rigged.’ You may not agree with that assessment. But it is nonetheless a reality for nearly half the country,” Cruz said.
Cruz, though, said he was “not arguing for setting aside the results of this election.”
“Consider the claims, consider the facts, consider the evidence and make a conclusive determination whether and to what extent this election complied with the Constitution, and with federal law,” he said.
The U.S. Senate rejected the Arizona objection, 93-6, and the Pennsylvania objection, 92-7. In the U.S. House, the objections were opposed by votes of 303-121 (Arizona) and 282-138 (Pennsylvania.)
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) urged his colleagues to oppose the effort by Cruz and Hawley and to support the certification.
“We cannot simply declare ourselves a national board of elections on steroids. The voters, the courts, and the states have all spoken,” McConnell said. “... If we overrule them, it would damage our republic forever. … I will not pretend such a vote would be a harmless protest gesture.”
Doubts about the election results, he said, were “incited without any evidence.”
“Self-government, my colleagues, requires a shared commitment to the truth, and a shared respect for the ground rules of our system,” McConnell said. “We cannot keep drifting apart into two separate tribes, with a separate set of facts and separate realities, with nothing in common except our hostility towards each other and mistrust for the few national institutions that we all still share.”
Other Republicans argued the Cruz/Hawley proposal violated states’ rights and infringed on conservative principles.
“If you vote to overturn these elections, wouldn't it be the opposite of what states-rights Republicans have always advocated for?” asked Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.). “This would doom the electoral college forever. It was never intended by our Founders that Congress has the power to overturn state-certified elections.”
GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.) addressed calls from some on the Right who wanted Pence himself to reject the certain states’ electoral ballots:
“If you're a conservative, this is the most offensive concept in the world -- that a single person could disenfranchise 155 million people,” Graham said.
U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney (Utah), the GOP’s 2012 nominee for president, said President Trump and Republican leaders had not been honest with their supporters about the election.
“No congressional audit is ever going to convince these voters, particularly when the president will continue to say that the election was stolen,” Romney said. “The best way we can show respect for the voters who were upset is by telling them the truth. ... That's the duty of leadership. The truth is that President-elect Biden won the election. President Trump lost.”
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Pool
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.