The Senate and House of Representatives certified President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the November presidential election, after protesters broke into the Capitol building earlier in the afternoon and suspended the proceedings.
Vice President Mike Pence read out the final tally giving Biden a 306 to 232 victory, to applause in the chamber.
Both chambers late Wednesday voted down an objection to Biden’s wins in Arizona and Pennsylvania, and the Senate did not take up an objection to the win in Wisconsin.
In the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi told colleagues that a “shameful assault was made on our democracy” and that it had been “anointed at the highest level of government.”
“It cannot, however, deter us from our responsibility to validate the election of Joe Biden,” she said in a written message.
Capitol police had engaged in an armed standoff with protesters who had made their way to the entrance of the House chamber, according to multiple reports from inside the building.
See: Watch: Hundreds of Trump supporters storm Capitol Hill, break fences and fight with police
Earlier Wednesday afternoon, President Donald Trump continued to insist without evidence that his loss was the result of widespread election fraud. “We will never give up. We will never concede. It doesn’t happen. You don’t concede when there’s theft involved,” Trump said. “Now it is up to Congress to confront this egregious assault on our democracy.”
The president later told his supporters in a video message on Twitter that “you have to go home now. We have to have peace,” while continuing to claim that “we had an election that was stolen from us.”
Shortly before Congress was forced to recess, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell forcefully argued that it was Congress’s duty to confirm Biden’s election victory Wednesday afternoon, despite the formal objections of dozens of congressional Republicans and protests in support of Trump that later turned violent.
“We cannot simply declare ourselves a national board of elections on steroids,” McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said. “The voters, the courts and the states have all spoken. They’ve all spoken. If we overrule them, it would damage our Republic forever.”
“This election, actually, was not unusually close,” he added. “The Electoral College margin is almost identical to what it was in 2016. … If this election were overturned by mere allegations from the losing side, our democracy would enter a death spiral.”
U.S. stocks shrugged off the mayhem on Capitol Hill, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average
closing at a record high.
Now read: Why the stock market rallied even as a violent mob stormed the Capitol
Every presidential election cycle, a joint session of Congress is convened to certify the results of the race in each individual state. Typically a formality, the proceedings took on more drama this year as Republicans planned to object to the results of races in several battleground states that voted for Biden.
Following the storming of the Capitol building, Republicans including Sen. Kelly Loeffler and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers took back their objections to certifying Biden’s win. Loeffler lost a Georgia runoff election Tuesday night in one of two contests that handed control of the Senate to Democrats.
Arizona’s Republican Party head, Kelli Ward, had seized on the delay, suggesting in a tweet that Congress, amid the violent disturbance, were in adjournment and thus the certified election results should be sent back to states for reconsideration.
“F— you we are,” retorted Rep. Ruben Gallego, a Democrat and also from Arizona. “Democracy will not die tonight.”
Federal law states that if both a House member and a senator object to a slate of state electors, the joint session will recess and both the Senate and House of Representatives will debate the question for a maximum of two hours.
Republicans argued that the electoral votes were invalid because state election officials and courts in many battleground states ordered modifications to election protocol to protect voters from the COVID-19 epidemic. Though many states that voted for Trump also made such changes this year, the GOP only planned to object to electors from states that Biden won.
According to federal law, for a state’s slate of electors to be rejected, both houses of Congress would have to agree to do so.
Speaking to supportive demonstrators outside the White House, Trump again claimed Wednesday that Pence has the power to unilaterally accept or reject presidential election results from any state he chooses, though that idea has been rejected by constitutional scholars and even, according to news reports, the vice president himself.
“All Vice President Pence has to do is send it back to the states to recertify, and we become president,” Trump told his supporters.
“It is my considered judgement 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,” Pence said in a statement released shortly before the session.