Washington — As a curfew took effect in Washington, D.C., hours after a violent mob descended on the U.S. Capitol building, Republicans and Democrats in Congress vowed to charge ahead with their constitutional duty of counting the electoral votes that will reaffirm President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.
Lawmakers appeared ready to reconvene in the wake of the day’s remarkable events, which descended into chaos and violence when pro-Trump demonstrators breached security barriers and gained entry to the Capitol building.
“I have faced violent hatred before. I was not deterred then, and I will not be deterred now,” Congressman Jim Clyburn, a Democrat from South Carolina, tweeted. “Tonight, Congress will continue the business of certifying the electoral college votes.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that after consulting with House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, Clyburn, the majority whip, and speaking with the Pentagon, the Justice Department, and Vice President Mike Pence, proceedings would continue at the Capitol.
“We always knew this responsibility would take us into the night. The night may still be long but we are hopeful for a shorter agenda, but our purpose will be accomplished,” she wrote in a letter to Democratic colleagues.
Pelosi said the assault on the Capitol cannot “deter us from our responsibility to validate the election of Joe Biden.”
Asked whether the Congress would finish counting the electoral votes in the Capitol, Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia said, “we sure hope so.”
“Whatever it takes,” he said. “These thugs are not running us off.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer seemed to indicate to reporters the upper chamber would gather at 8 p.m., while Senator Mitt Romney, a Republican from Utah, said lawmakers “must not be intimidated from fulfilling our constitutional duty.”
“We must continue with the count of electoral college votes. In light of today’s sad circumstances, I ask my colleagues: Do we weigh our own political fortunes more heavily than we weigh the strength of our Republic, the strength of our democracy, and the cause of freedom? What is the weight of personal acclaim compared to the weight of conscience?” he said in a statement blaming the president for the violent protests that unfolded.
Republican Senator Dan Sullivan of Alaska told reporters many senators “want to get back to work and get in the chamber and do our job.”
The House and Senate convened at 1 p.m. for a joint session to begin the process of tallying the electoral votes from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. After Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and Paul Gosar of Arizona, joined by dozens of other GOP lawmakers, objected to the votes from Arizona, the two chambers broke into separate sessions to debate the objection.
But the proceedings were abruptly interrupted and recessed as the U.S. Capitol went into lockdown after a violent mob of pro-Trump protesters made their way inside the building. U.S. Capitol Police evacuated lawmakers, staff and reporters from the two chambers, and members of the House and Senate have not yet returned.
Vice President Mike Pence, who presides over the joint session and was in the Senate during the debate, was whisked off the floor.
While a group of more than a dozen Republican senators had intended to object to electoral votes cast in other states, including Pennsylvania and Georgia, it’s unclear whether they plan to do so in the wake of the day’s events.
As Capitol Police struggled to gain control of the mob, Mr. Trump’s supporters roamed the halls of the Capitol, while some entered House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office, and others ended up on the Senate floor.
The president did not condemn the actions of his backers who perpetrated the violence, but did encourage them to “go home.”
Feature image courtesy CBS News via Twitter