US Congress accepts Electoral College result; clears way for Biden to become President

WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG, REUTERS) – US Democrat Joe Biden was cleared to be sworn in as US president on Jan 20 when Vice-President Mike Pence declared that Congress had confirmed the Electoral College tally of states’ results that showed Biden the winner of the Nov 3 contest against incumbent President Donald Trump.

The US House and Senate easily rejected a second challenge to the Electoral College votes for Biden, clearing the way for certification of his victory in the election.

The objections to Arizona’s and Pennsylvania’s Electoral College vote tallies were lodged as Congress met in a joint session to formally count the results that was disrupted when a mob of President Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol.

The crowd breached police lines and smashed its way into the building, including offices of lawmakers. One woman was shot and killed by Capitol Police. Members of Congress abruptly suspended their work and eventually they were hustled out of the House and Senate chambers by security.

The House and Senate later resumed their joint session to deal with the challenges, which were defeated by substantial margins in both chambers, and finish the formal count.

A group of House Republican registered objections to Georgia, Michigan and Nevada as well. But in the wake of the shocking disruption, which lasted several hours, most GOP senators dropped the effort. Objections must come from a member of the House and the Senate to be valid.

When Republican Representative Jody Hice rose to object to the electoral count from his home state of Georgia, he said that “Following the events of today it appears that some senators have withdrawn their objection.” One of them was Georgia Senator Kelly Loeffler, who will be leaving the Senate after losing a runoff election on Tuesday.

“When I arrived in Washington this morning I fully intended to object to the certification of the electoral votes,” Loeffler said earlier.

“However, the events that transpired have forced me to reconsider, and I cannot now in good conscience object to the certification of these electors.” However, Representative Scott Perry of Pennsylvania and Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri objected to Pennsylvania’s electoral vote submission.

The House and Senate then split up for separate debates. While the Senate moved quickly to a vote, the House proceeded with two-hour debate.

The counting of the electors’ votes is normally a formality but became contentious this year after Trump refused to concede his Nov 3 defeat on the baseless grounds that the election was “rigged.”

He urged his supporters to descend on Washington on Wednesday to pressure Vice-President Mike Pence and Republican lawmakers to reject Biden’s electoral votes.

Pence, who is presiding over the electoral count in a joint session of Congress and refused Trump’s calls for him to subvert the process, called it a “dark day” in Washington as he gaveled the Senate back in session Wednesday night.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, who had sought to prevent the objections to Biden’s electoral votes, said earlier Wednesday that it was Congress’s job under the Constitution to accept the results and ratify Biden’s victory.

After the chamber resumed debate, McConnell said the counting would be completed “by the book” and “we will certify the winner of the 2020 presidential election.”

The counting of the Electoral College votes of the 50 states and Washington, DC, is typically a quadrennial formality for Congress. But Trump’s refusal to concede put pressure on his congressional allies to prolong the process.

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Trump encouraged the objections and the protests, calling McConnell and others the “Surrender Caucus” and repeating baseless claims that the election was rigged.

He also egged on his supporters at a protest in Washington just before Congress convened. In front of thousands of people gathered at a park south of the White House earlier on Wednesday, Trump said he wouldn’t concede his loss in the election, which he claims without evidence was tainted by fraud.

“We will never give up, we will never concede,” he told the crowd. “We won this election. We won it in a landslide.” It was not long after that when the crowd began forming at the Capitol.

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Republican Representative Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin said the day’s events moved the US into “banana republic territory.” A growing number of Republicans laid the blame on Trump.

“There’s no question the President formed the mob, the President incited the mob, the President addressed the mob – he lit the flame,” the No 3 House Republican, Liz Cheney of Wyoming, said on CNN.

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