Early Thursday morning, in a joint session of Congress, senators and representatives confirmed that Joe Biden has been elected president of the United States.
Members of Congress certified the Electoral College vote about 3:40 a.m. Eastern, after a day that saw proceedings interrupted by a mob of people storming the U.S. Capitol because they couldn’t accept that Donald Trump had lost the presidential election. During the takeover, they vandalized offices and other areas; a woman was fatally shot, under circumstances that remain unclear; and three people died as a result of medical emergencies.
Senators, representatives, and staffers went to secure locations while the building was cleared, and then the House and Senate reconvened at 8 p.m. Wednesday. After a long session that included consideration and rejection of challenges to electoral votes from some states, the two houses of Congress certified Biden as president-elect and Kamala Harris as vice president-elect in the wee hours.
The totals the lawmakers affirmed did not change from those announced in November — 306 electoral votes for the Biden-Harris ticket, 232 for Trump and Mike Pence. Pence, who as vice president serves as president of the Senate, oversaw the certification proceedings and declared Biden and Harris the winners. The vice president had been under pressure from Trump to overturn the results, but Pence had no power to do so.
Some Republican lawmakers submitted objections to the electoral votes from Arizona and Pennsylvania, both states the Democrats carried, but in the end both the House and Senate rejected these, although a substantial number of Republicans voted in support of them. Far-right Republican Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Josh Hawley of Missouri were among those leading the challenges.
Those challenging the results claimed there were voting irregularities in those states, but there is no evidence of widespread vote fraud in any state. Trump has made many unsubstantiated claims of fraud and contended that he actually won the election — an assertion that spurred the rioting at the capitol Wednesday.
Democrats and Republicans alike condemned the mob action. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, sent colleagues a letter calling it “a shameful assault … on our democracy,” The Washington Post reports. “It was anointed at the highest level of government. It cannot, however, deter us from our responsibility to validate the election of Joe Biden.”
Democratic Sen. Tammy Duckworth called Trump “a petty, insecure, wannabe tinpot dictator,” according to the Post. She said some of her Republican colleagues cared more about pleasing him than they did about upholding democracy, and she excoriated the rioters as well.
“I have spent my entire adult life defending our democracy, but I never, never thought it would be necessary to defend it from an attempt at violent overthrow in our nation’s own capitol building,” said Duckworth, who lost both her legs while serving in the Iraq War. “Well, I refuse to let anyone intent on instigating chaos or inciting violence deter me from carrying out my constitutional duties.”
Among the prominent Republicans denouncing Trump was Sen. Mitt Romney, a former presidential nominee (he lost the 2012 election to Barack Obama). “We gather due to a selfish man’s injured pride and the outrage of supporters who he has deliberately misinformed for the past two months and stirred to action this very morning,” Romney said on the Senate floor Wednesday night. “What happened here today was an insurrection incited by the president of the United States.”
But some GOPers continued to echo Trump’s claims of fraud. On the House floor, Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama accused Biden of “seeking the illegal alien bloc vote” to “steal” the election. Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida alleged there was “systemic” and “repeated” fraud. In the end, though, their rhetoric changed nothing, and Biden and Harris will be inaugurated as president and vice president January 20.
Trump even appeared to admit defeat after the vote was certified. But the statement he issued, tweeted by aide Dan Scavino because the president’s Twitter account was locked, was still very Trumpian: “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!”