“We now need the entire Congress to come together and vote to certify the election results. We must stand together as Americans,” Daines and Lankford said in a joint statement. “We must defend our Constitution and the rule of law.”
But one key senator — Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), the first senator to announce he would protest the electoral college results — refused to relent. Hawley still plans to object to confirming the electoral votes from Pennsylvania during joint session, according to his spokeswoman Kelli Ford, a move that, if matched by a member of the House, could kick Congress into another round of debate and voting on whether to accept the state’s results.
The decision puts Hawley in the distinct minority of GOP senators who, before the events of Wednesday afternoon, had committed to object to the results, but following the siege, indicated they would vote to certify the results.
Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) explained the siege “did change things drastically” and that he wanted to “get this ugly day behind us.” Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), a close ally of the president, also told reporters that “in light of events, there’s a bit of a different attitude” about continuing the objection to the election results. Both supported efforts to dispute the results.
In brief floor remarks Wednesday night, Hawley noted that he would speak about the Pennsylvania electors during the debate over Arizona’s results, “in lieu of speaking about it later.”
“I actually think it’s very vital what we do, the opportunity to be heard, to register objections is very vital,” Hawley said, defending his stance. His spokeswoman said later that Hawley would not speak during the debate over Pennsylvania, in the interest of accelerating the proceedings toward a final vote.
Republican leaders and lawmakers spent Wednesday afternoon trying to press Trump loyalists like Hawley to abandon their objections to Biden’s win, as they huddled in an undisclosed location waiting for law enforcement officials to clear bands of pro-Trump rioters from the Capitol, according to multiple people familiar with the effort.
After law enforcement officials cleared the Capitol, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) told reporters he believed objectors would “condense” their remaining objections into a single complaint, extending the debate by only another 30 or 40 minutes before relenting.
“I don’t think there’s going to be another objection,” Paul said. “I think it’s over.”
But Paul’s predictions proved to be premature, as the debate promised to stretch for several more hours into the night.
When the House and Senate chambers went into lockdown, both were midway through debating Arizona’s election results. Congress resumed working shortly after 8 p.m., after Vice President Pence, in a rare speech from the Senate dais, reopened the chamber by telling lawmakers: “Let’s get back to work.”
Pence and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) voiced sentiments of resilience, warning that Congress would not be cowed by “thugs, mobs or threats,” as McConnell classified the rioters, nor be deterred from certifying Biden as the winner of the 2020 election.
McConnell had been telling members to return Wednesday night to resume proceedings as a projection of strength after rioters drove lawmakers to evacuate the Capitol, according to two senior Republicans familiar with the message the leader has been sending.
House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.) offered a similar sentiment to House members.
“I have faced violent hatred before. I was not deterred then, and I will not be deterred now. Tonight, Congress will continue the business of certifying the electoral college votes,” he tweeted.
But leading Democrats also had harsh words for the people who stormed the Capitol — and the president they believe incited them to do it.
“Those who performed these reprehensible acts cannot be called protesters. No, these were rioters and insurrectionists, goons and thugs, domestic terrorists,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said, adding that their incursion “was in good part President Trump’s doing, incited by his words, his lies.”
“This violence is in good part his responsibility, his everlasting shame,” Schumer added.
The protest of the electoral college results, which began as an organized exercise in the Capitol earlier this afternoon, quickly devolved into chaos as a pro-Trump mob stormed barricades, pushing their way past armed Capitol police and into the congressional office buildings and the Capitol itself, sending both the House and Senate into lockdown. Lawmakers were evacuated soon after, as protesters occupied the chambers themselves.
As they were pushed out of the Capitol, several Republicans publicly called on Trump to intervene with his supporters and urge them to stand down.
“Call it off, Mr. President. We need you to call this off,” Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) said in a CNN interview, appealing to Trump to tweet to his supporters that “it’s over. Please go home.”
Even House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who committed to support the electoral college protest earlier Wednesday, called on Trump to “calm” his supporters and bring their “un-American” protest to an end.
Earlier on Wednesday, McConnell accused Republicans backing the electoral college objections of hypocrisy, shaming them for questioning Biden’s win after spending four years accusing Democrats of never having accepted Trump’s presidency, and urging them not to “escalate what we repudiate.”
“We cannot simply declare ourselves a national board of elections on steroids . . . it would damage our republic forever,” McConnell said. “We cannot keep drifting apart in to two separate tribes with a separate set of facts and separate reality, with nothing in common except our hostility toward each other.”
Trump responded to their appeals with a video in which he urged calm, but continued to rail against the election results as illegitimate. Multiple social media companies responded to video’s posting by suspending his accounts for several hours.