Lawmakers have returned to the Capitol to continue the counting of Electoral College votes, hours after a mob of angry rioters overran the building and sent members of Congress fleeing in the most brazen assault on the pillars of American democracy in modern history.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi vowed to resume the interrupted proceedings Wednesday evening. Senators returned to the Capitol under heavy guard, carrying with them the certificates of electoral votes that were rescued from rioters who broke into the chamber earlier in the day.
“The United States and the United States Congress have faced down much greater threats than the unhinged crowd we saw today. We were not deterred before, and we will not deter today,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said. “This failed insurrection only underscores how crucial the task before us is for our republic.”
Chaos erupted inside the Capitol building Wednesday afternoon as thousands of pro-Trump demonstrators charged the complex and eventually made their way onto the Senate floor, plunging Washington into crisis and halting the congressional count of Electoral College votes to confirm President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. The president fomented thousands of supporters in a speech by the White House before they marched to the Capitol, vowing to “never concede” the election.
Both the House and Senate recessed as it became clear that the rioters had breached the Capitol, and Vice President Mike Pence, who was in the Senate, was whisked away. As the intruders made their way inside the complex, senators and members of the press were evacuated from the Senate chamber, and armed officers inside the House chamber aimed firearms at those attempting to breach the barricaded doors. Lawmakers remained in hiding for hours as hundreds of law enforcement officers worked to clear the building and control the crisis.
One woman was shot inside the complex and later succumbed to her injuries, police said.
The incredible scene unfolded after lawmakers gathered in a joint session to count the Electoral College votes and seal Biden’s victory in November’s election. Soon after the joint session began, GOP lawmakers objected to results from Arizona, a move that prompted each chamber to begin debating the objection separately.
McConnell excoriated his fellow Republicans’ efforts to block state electors, saying that overturning the will of the voters would “damage our republic forever” in a blistering speech from the Senate floor. Protesters who had gathered outside made their way into the chamber not long after McConnell’s speech.
Senate overwhelmingly votes to accept Arizona’s electoral votes
The Senate overwhelmingly rejected the objection to the Electoral College votes from Arizona, made by Gosar and Cruz, in a 6-93 vote.
A simple majority was needed to sustain the objection. Cruz, Hawley, Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi, John Kennedy of Louisiana, Roger Marshall of Kansas and Tommy Tuberville of Alabama, all Republicans, voted to reject Arizona’s electoral votes.
The Senate completed its maximum two hours of debate just before 10 p.m., after proceedings were interrupted for several hours when the violent mob of Mr. Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol building.
Both chambers are needed to sustain an objection, meaning it will fail and Arizona’s results will stand.
CBSN Contributors: MELISSA QUINN, GRACE SEGERS, KATHRYN WATSON, STEFAN BECKET, AUDREY MCNAMARA, CAROLINE LINTON