WASHINGTON — Members of Congress have returned to the House and Senate floors to resume certifying the Electoral College votes after an afternoon of chaos at the Capitol when a mob of President Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the building, attempting a coup that forced lawmakers to evacuate and incited armed standoffs with Capitol police. One woman was shot and died during the riots.
Lawmakers first evacuated around 2:30 p.m., and returned just after 8:00 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.
Vice President Mike 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.”
It is unclear if Republicans will continue to object to counting the electoral votes and certifying President-elect Joe Biden’s win in an attempt to appease Trump now that the rioters have left the building. Prior to evacuating the Capitol, lawmakers were debating an 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 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.
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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has acknowledged Biden’s win and encouraged Republicans not to object to the process, also spoke on the Senate floor just after 8:00 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.”
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