Following an extraordinary day of violence and chaos in which pro-Trump insurrectionists stormed the Capitol Building and shut down the counting of Electoral College votes, Congress finally certified the presidential election shortly after 3:30 a.m. ET Thursday, officially paving the way for Joe Biden to take office later this month as 46th president of the United States.
Lawmakers were already planning for a long day when the joint session of Congress convened at 1 p.m. ET on Wednesday. In 2016, the certification of the election results took about 30 minutes; this year, dozens of Republican lawmakers impeded the process by legitimizing Trump’s false claims of election fraud and forcing a debate over whether to overturn the election. Congress began certifying states’ election results alphabetically; when rioters breached the Capitol Building shortly before 2 p.m. Wednesday, Congress was still debating Arizona.
As insurrectionists occupied the Senate floor, House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s office, and the National Statuary Hall, lawmakers—along with the boxes containing the electoral votes—were taken to an undisclosed location. After more than six hours of waiting while law enforcement officials cleared the building, Congress reconvened around 8 p.m.
Even after the deadly violence in the Capitol, numerous Republicans still sought to overturn states’ election results. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), John Kennedy (R-La.), Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), and Tommy Tuberville (R-Ark.) all voted to oppose the certification of Arizona’s electoral votes. In the House, 121 Republicans objected to Arizona’s electoral vote certification.
But other Republicans reversed course. For example, Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.)—who on Monday declared at a Trump-headlined campaign rally that she would vote to reject the election results and on Tuesday lost her Senate runoff race to Democratic opponent Raphael Warnock—said Wednesday night, “I cannot now, in good conscience, object to the certification of these electors.”
Republicans mounted one final effort to overturn the election results by objecting to the certification of Pennsylvania’s electoral votes, but after a debate which stretched into the early hours of the morning Thursday, majorities in the House and the Senate ultimately voted to confirm the state’s 20 electoral votes for Biden. Cruz, Hawley, Hyde, Smith, and Tuberville, along with Sens. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) and Rick Scott (R-Fla.) and 138 Republican representatives objected to the certification of the votes in Pennsylvania.
Finally, 14 hours after the joint session began, Congress certified Joe Biden’s election win, bringing a close to a deadly day and a tumultuous four years.