WASHINGTON, D.C. – The US Senate resumed session around 8 p.m. ET on Wednesday after a six-hour disruption after a number of Republican members of Congress objected to the counting of the Electoral College.
Both the House and the Senate abruptly went into an extended recess at about 2:15 p.m. ET when the U.S. Capitol was placed on lockdown due to Pro-Trump protesters who stormed the building.
Lawmakers in attendance, including congressional leadership and Vice President Mike Pence, were evacuated and taken to secured locations as law enforcement worked to secure the Capitol.
When the Capitol was declared secure, Pelosi issued a statement, calling the actions of the protesters “a shameful assault” on our democracy. However, she said it can’t deter Congress from their responsibility to validate the election. Pelosi said lawmakers will return to the Capitol Wednesday night and they may be there for a while.
“We always knew this responsibility would take us into the night. The night may still be long, but we are hopeful for a shorter agenda, but our purpose will be accomplished,” wrote Pelosi.
What happened before lockdown of Capitol
Before the Capitol was placed on lockdown, Congress had begun its joint session in the Constitutionally mandated process to tally the Electoral College votes and formally select president-elect Joe Biden the winner of the 2020 election.
After certifying the results from Alabama and Alaska, Republicans lawmakers, led by Sen. Ted Cruz and Rep. Paul Gosar, objected to the Electoral College votes from the state of Arizona. Both the House and the Senate then went to their own chambers to debate.
When session resumed, a number of GOP senators who planned on objecting dropped their objections. The US Senate dismissed the Arizona objection by a 93-6 margin.
In the Senate, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was the first to speak during their debate and he spoke out against objecting to the Electoral College results.
"If this election were overturned by mere allegations from the losing side, our democracy would enter a death spiral," said McConnell. "We'd never see our country accept an election again."
Cruz later spoke and explained why he was objecting. He said many Americans believe the election wasn’t conducted fairly. To combat these doubts, he’s calling for a commission to “conduct a 10-day emergency audit” to investigate claims of voter fraud, which are unfounded.
“The Constitution gives to Congress the responsibility this day to count the votes. The framers knew what they were doing when they gave responsibilities to Congress. We have a responsibility, and I would urge that we follow the precedent of 1877.”
Soon after their remarks, both chambers of Congress abruptly recessed and the building was placed on lockdown due to the crowd that was breaking in.
What you can expect from the rest of the joint session
While President Donald Trump and his allies view the session as a last-ditch chance to overturn the results of the election, most legal experts agree that there’s no chance that would happen.
Officially, Wednesday’s session is being held to formally count the Electoral College votes that were submitted by every state on Dec. 14. That day, electors packed statehouses (or participated virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic) and upheld Biden’s 306-222 victory over Trump in the general election. Those results were then signed by electors, sealed by political leaders and sent to the Capitol building.
The Constitution mandates that Wednesday’s Congressional session be led by Vice President Mike Pence, who also serves as the President of the Senate. During that session, Pence’s role will be to unseal those results and preside over the official tallying of the votes.
While Trump has publicly pressured Pence in recent days to “reject” the results on the unproven basis of widespread voter fraud, the Constitution does not formally grant the vice president that power. Pence released a statement at the beginning of the session, saying he wouldn't interfere with the process.
As Pence unseals state results in alphabetical order, four “tellers” — one Democrat and one Republican from each chamber — will announce the results to their colleagues. That process will continue until all states are tallied — or until an objection is raised about the results in a given state.
So far, at least 12 Republican senators and dozens of Republican House members have promised to raise objections to the election results of several swing states. Should that happen, voting is halted and both chambers will hold up to two hours of debate on the objection.
Because GOP lawmakers have promised to raise objections to results in six swing states, the session could stretch into multiple days.
But despite the delays, there’s little chance the objections will result in the overturn of the election, as a majority of lawmakers in both the House and the Senate need to vote in favor of the objections following the debate in order to throw out those election results.
Democrats currently control the House of Representatives with a majority, and most Republican Senators, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, have already said they oppose the objections. Lawmakers seeking to overturn the election will be well short of a majority in both chambers.
While objections during Wednesday’s session might make for good political theater, it won’t change the outcome of the election. According to UC San Diego Political Science Department Chair Thad Kousser, the chances of the election swinging to Trump on Wednesday afternoon are “entirely impossible.”
Pence stayed on Capitol Hill
While Pence was removed from the US Senate, he remained on site as violent protests took place on site.
Vice President @Mike_Pence has returned to the Senate. He never left the Capitol.@VP was in regular contact w/ House & Senate leadership, Cap Police, DOJ, & DoD to facilitate efforts to secure the Capitol & reconvene Congress.— Devin O’Malley (@VPPressSec) January 7, 2021
And now we will finish the People’s business.