WASHINGTON — A majority of House Republicans, as well as six senators, voted to try to overturn President-elect Joe Biden’s win in Arizona after a mob of President Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the US Capitol, attempting a coup that forced lawmakers to evacuate.
Members of Congress returned to the House and Senate floors Wednesday evening to resume certifying the Electoral College votes after an afternoon of chaos at the Capitol, which included armed standoffs between Trump supporters and Capitol Police, and in which one woman was shot and killed.
After the Capitol was cleared, some Republicans who had previously said they would object to Biden’s win backed down, but even more joined the ranks of members trying to overturn the will of voters. Before Trump's supporters took over the Capitol on Wednesday, 68 Republicans in the House and Senate raised an objection to reject Biden's win in Arizona. After the riot, 127 Republicans — including House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy — voted to undo Arizona's election.
Six Republican senators — Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, Cindy Hyde-Smith, John Kennedy, Roger Marshall, and Tommy Tuberville — and a stunning 121 House Republicans voted, fruitlessly, to contest the Arizona results. Their attempts failed, 93–6 in the Senate and 303–121 in the House.
Although Republicans continued to contest Biden's win in other states — Hawley challenged the results in Pennsylvania — they do not have enough support in Congress and will not succeed in undermining the election. To wit, House Republicans tried to object to the results in Georiga, Michigan, and Nevada as well but said that they no longer had any senators to support them, so those attempts failed.
Congress will continue going through Electoral College results from each state in alphabetical order with Vice President Mike Pence presiding overnight. At least one House Republican and one Senate Republican are needed to raise an objection to another state's results, forcing the House and Senate to split up for up to two hours of debate and a vote on the objection. When all is said and done, Congress will certify Biden's win.
Lawmakers were first forced to evacuate the Capitol around 2:30 p.m. when Trump supporters breached the building. Members returned just after 8 p.m., after being held in an undisclosed, secure location in the Capitol. In the hours between, Trump supporters left graffiti reading “Murder the media” inside the Capitol, took up residence in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office, and set up a noose outside the building.
As of about 5:15 p.m., Capitol Police said they had made just 13 arrests. The Capitol was cleared and all but only a few of the rioters were allowed to simply walk away.
Pence spoke on the Senate floor when the lawmakers returned to the chamber, saying, “To those who wreaked havoc in our Capitol today, you did not win. Violence never wins. Freedom wins. …. May God bless the lost, the injured, and the heroes forged on this day. May God bless all who serve here and those who protect this place, and may God bless the United States of America. Let’s get back to work.”
Hawley, who was the first Senate Republican who said he would vote to object to Biden’s win, spoke on the Senate floor around 9:15 p.m. after raising his first to greet the mob of Trump supporters outside the Capitol earlier in the day, before rioters stormed the building. Though he did not explicitly say he planned to object to the certification of the results at the time, Hawley’s remarks focused on the "appropriate means" for objecting to election certification. A spokesperson for Hawley later confirmed that he would object to Pennsylvania's results, Politico reported.
"Violence is not how you achieve change," he said, but he went on to defend the baseless objections that incited the violence in the first place, "What we are doing tonight is actually very important. ... This is the lawful place where those objections and concerns should be heard."
Hawley specifically called out the election results in Pennsylvania, saying that Congress needed to hear arguments against the state’s mail-in voting law — which passed the state legislature in October 2019, months before the pandemic, without objection from Hawley or other national Republicans. Trump’s allies only filed a challenge to the law after he lost the election and the lawsuit was repeatedly rejected by judges, including the Supreme Court.
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Prior to evacuating the Capitol, lawmakers were debating the objection to certifying Arizona’s Electoral College results led by Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona. They were joined by 66 of their Republican colleagues in objecting to the certification. Following the riots, some of the other Republican objectors made a 180-degree turn.
“Today is a sad day for our country,” Montana Sen. Steve Daines said in a statement released just prior to the lawmakers' return to the floor. “We will not let today’s violence deter Congress from certifying the election. We must restore confidence in our electoral process. We must, and we will, have a peaceful and orderly transition of power.”
The statement made no mention of the fact that Daines was among the objectors planning to try and halt the certification of the election.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has acknowledged Biden’s win and encouraged Republicans not to object to the process, spoke on the Senate floor just after 8 p.m.
“I want to say to the American people, the United States Senate will not be intimidated. We will not be kept out of this chamber by thugs, mobs, or threats,” he said. “We will not bow to lawlessness and intimidation. We are back at our posts. We will discharge our duty under the constitution and for our nation.”
Sarah Mimms contributed reporting to this story.