Barely ten minutes into the joint session, the first vehement objection to an electoral certification was raised. Representative Paul Gosar (R-AZ) and Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) submitted their complaint in writing immediately after the results were read for the state of Arizona. By 1:15 p.m. Eastern, Vice President Mike Pence had announced the official objection, and the two bodies separated for the first of what was expected to be six or seven two-hour debates leading to a vote.
But the event that took place shortly after – the storming of the Capitol by an angry mob of protesters – stretched what should have taken no longer than two hours into a nearly 11-hour nightmare. When Congress reconvened, many of those who declared their fiery intent to reject the certification of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as president and vice president despite the unanswered claims of election fraud had lost all their heat. Support for the objections dried up in the Senate and the process marched on but for one lone objection.
Arizona Kicks It Off
When the House began debate over the objection to Arizona’s electoral count, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) fired off her first partisan shot right out of the gate, saying the Republicans were in “gross violation” of the COVID safety rules.
Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) opened the House debate, pointing out that the Constitution wasn’t followed. He said that many came on the first full day of House business with legislation that would fix the broken election system. All 196 Republicans voted in favor – with exactly zero Democrat support.
Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) came up next, explaining the Electoral College and calling the 2020 election the most secure in modern history. If Congress overturns the Electoral College on this, then those already governing will have chosen the president rather than the people, she claimed.
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) spoke up in support of the challenge. His argument? 60 million Americans think the election was fraudulent. They’re asking for an investigation, and the Democrats refuse, just because they don’t want Trump to be president. “For four years, that’s all they’ve cared about,” he declared. He then pointed out the Democrat attacks against Trump and that, after they all failed, the Dems simply changed the rules – and it wasn’t done by the state legislatures, as it should have been.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) rose to object to the objection, calling it a free and fair election. The man who pursued baseless allegations against Donald Trump for four years called the fraud allegations unfounded without a hint of irony. “What value has consistency, when measured against ambition,” he asked. That has been a question asked of Schiff all along.
Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) challenged the electoral votes in Arizona and said he would object to Georgia, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, and New Mexico, giving a foreshadowing for what could be expected over the course of the joint session. Alas, it was not to happen as he predicted.
On the Senate side, Mitch McConnell (R-KY) opened the debate in opposition to the objection to Arizona’s votes. “We cannot simply declare ourselves a national board of elections on steroids,” he said.
Sen. Cruz had a rebuttal to those who deny fraud occurred: “We have seen, and no doubt will continue to see a lot of moralizing from both sides of the aisle. But I would urge to both sides of the aisle, perhaps, a bit less certitude and a bit more recognition that we are gathered at a time when democracy is in crisis.” What does it say to the almost half of the citizens in this country, he asked, if we vote to not even investigate the claims?
About 2:15 p.m., protesters made it into the building, causing both the Senate and the House to pause deliberation.
The Fire Just Isn’t There Anymore
When the Senate came back to finish the debate, it was clear the flame had been all but doused. Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) had been cut off mid-sentence by the afternoon’s events. Where he had delivered an impassioned plea before, now he admitted defeat.
The Senate voted not to support the objection 93-6, and the House did the same, 303-121. Despite at least a dozen senators initially planning to object, Ted Cruz (R-TX), Josh Hawley (R-MO), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), John Kennedy (R-LA), Roger Marshall (R-KS), and Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) were the only six who voted not to certify Arizona’s electoral votes.
About 20 minutes before midnight, the joint session reconvened and continued announcing electoral votes. Representatives from various states stood up to challenge Georgia, Michigan, and Nevada, but all the senators had revoked their signatures, leaving Vice President Pence no choice but to ignore the objection. Interestingly enough, there was no challenge raised against New Mexico.
Rep. Scott Perry’s (R-PA) Pennsylvania objection was signed by Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), however, and so at just 15 minutes after midnight, the joint session once again split off. The House used nearly the whole two hours, with numerous representatives offering their reasons for supporting or opposing the objection, but the Senate was done in just 11 minutes. There was no debate – it went straight to a vote. Senators Cruz, Hawley, Hyde-Smith, Marshall, and Tuberville voted “aye,” just as they had for Arizona, and they were joined by Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) and Rick Scott (R-FL). However, Mr. Kennedy broke from the group and voted no, so the objection was defeated 92-7.
The House eventually voted not to support the objection, 282 to 138, and the joint session came together once again about 3:25 a.m. to wrap up. A representative from Texas stood up to object to Wisconsin’s electoral votes’ certification, but, again, there was no support from the Senate. At 3:40 in the morning – a little more than 14 hours after the joint session first began – the votes were certified, the totals were read, and Vice President Pence announced that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris had indeed won the White House and will take office January 20.
Read more from James Fite.