Under the Constitution, Congress meets after every presidential election to count votes from the Electoral College and announce the winner. It’s usually a ceremonial exercise, since results have already been certified by all the states. But this year, a group of Republican lawmakers, prodded by President Trump, tried to derail the process by refusing to accept the results in several swing states that Biden won. Their objections were dismissed by majorities of both houses of Congress.
“Joe Biden won the election. It’s not what I had hoped for, but that’s what happened,” said Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, a Republican, urging his colleagues to accept the results.
“If this election were overturned by mere allegations from the losing side, our democracy would enter a death spiral,” Senator McConnell said, arguing for why the Senate must certify the election results in order to preserve American democracy.
President-elect Biden condemned the violence and he suggested, as many Republicans and Democrats did, that President Trump was responsible.
“At their best, the words of a president can inspire,” Biden said. “At their worst, they can incite.”
Like many others, he made clear that the rioters didn’t represent the vast majority of Americans. He reiterated his plea to restore decency and respect to politics, bring Americans together, and unite the nation. “There has never been anything we can’t do when we do it together,” he said.
The violence in Washington was widely condemned by Democrats and Republicans around the nation, including all four living former U.S. presidents.
“I am appalled by the reckless behavior of some political leaders since the election and by the lack of respect shown today for our institutions, our traditions, and our law enforcement,” said former President George W. Bush, a Republican. “The violent assault on the Capitol—and disruption of a Constitutionally-mandated meeting of Congress—was undertaken by people whose passions have been inflamed by falsehoods and false hopes.”
After Biden’s win was finally certified in the wee hours of the morning, Barry C. Black, the Senate chaplain, said a prayer in the chamber that acknowledged the violence.
“These tragedies have reminded us,” he said, “that words matter and that the power of life and death is in the tongue.”
By Thursday morning, calls were growing amid lawmakers and business leaders to impeach President Trump again or invoke the 25th amendment to remove the president on the grounds that he is unable to do his job.
At the same time, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic minority leader who will become the majority leader in a few weeks, tried to reassure Americans shaken by Wednesday’s chaos.
“The divisions in our country clearly run deep, but we are a resilient, forward-looking, and optimistic people, and we will begin the hard work of repairing this nation tonight because here in America we do hard things,” he said on the Senate floor. “In America, we always overcome our challenges.”
With reporting by The New York Times.