Senate, House resoundingly reject 1st challenge to Biden win hours after angry mob storms U.S. Capitol

The U.S. Senate has resumed debating the Republican challenge against Democrat Joe Biden's presidential election victory, more than six hours after pro-Trump mobs attacked the Capitol and forced lawmakers to flee.

Formal process to certify electoral college vote confirming Biden's win could go into the night

Vice President Mike Pence presides over a joint session of Congress as it convenes to count the Electoral College votes cast in November's election, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, is on the right. (Saul Loeb/Pool via The Associated Press)

The U.S. Congress has resumed its joint session to certify the electoral college victory of Joe Biden.

The proceedings resumed shortly before midnight, after both the Senate and House each voted on the first challenge to Biden's win in Arizona which was raised early in the afternoon, just before pro-Donald Trump mobs swarmed the U.S. Capitol. 

About six hours later, once police had secured the building, the Senate easily rejected the challenge by a vote of 93-6. 

The House of Representatives then added its own defeat, voting it down 303-121. 

After gaveling the House vote, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the two chambers of Congress would resume their joint session to consider election results from other states.

Supporters of President Donald Trump stand inside the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, in Washington. (John Minchillo/The Associated Press)

Three senators — Kelly Loeffler of Georgia, Steve Daines of Montana and Mike Braun of Indiana — said they would no longer object to Biden electors.

All three had previously signed on to Trump's false claims of widespread voter fraud to explain his defeat. Loeffler has just days left in her term. She lost her Senate race in Georgia to Democrat Raphael Warnock earlier Wednesday.

Republican Sen. Josh Hawley says he is going forward with his objection to the electoral college results in Pennsylvania despite the violent breach at the Capitol.

The Missouri senator said he did not support violence but said the Senate should go forward with a legal process that includes his objections.

WATCH | How the protests unfolded:

How the siege on the U.S. Capitol unfolded

3 years ago
Duration 3:44
CBC News’ David Common breaks down what happened on Capitol Hill on Wednesday and how U.S. President Donald Trump stoked discontent among his supporters before he lost the election.

'You did not win'

Senators had only just begun the formal process of certifying the votes when Trump supporters swarmed the Capitol, forcing a suspension of the proceedings and evacuation of the building. 

U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence re-opened the session, telling the people who forced the delay in proceedings that they did not win. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said, "They tried to disrupt our democracy. They failed."

WATCH | Pence tells angry mob that violence never wins:

Mike Pence condemns the violence and loss of life in D.C.

3 years ago
Duration 1:19
U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence re-opens Congressional session to certify the electoral college vote saying the violent Trump supporters who stormed the Capitol did not win.

Biden calls storming of Capitol an 'assault'

U.S. president-elect Joe Biden called the violent protests "an assault on the most sacred of American undertakings: the doing of the people's business."

Biden's condemnation came after violent protesters breached the Capitol on Wednesday afternoon, forcing a delay in the constitutional process to affirm the president-elect's victory in the November election.

Biden, who spoke from Wilmington, Del., also demanded that Trump immediately make a televised address calling on his supporters to cease the violence that he described as an "unprecedented assault" as pro-Trump protesters violently occupied the U.S. Capitol.

Trump did not. He instead posted a video on Twitter in which he reiterated false claims that the Nov. 3 election was stolen. He told his supporters he knows how they feel but that they should "go home in peace" and respect "our great people in law and order."

Twitter immediately labelled the video as disputed and prevented it from being retweeted. Twitter later pulled the video down, leaving a message of its own with a link to its rules

During a rally earlier Wednesday near the White House, Trump vowed he would "never concede" and urged the massive crowd that had assembled to march to the Capitol where hundreds had already gathered under tight security.

"We will never give up," Trump told the crowd.

Police take several hours to secure area

Protesters at the Capitol tore down metal barricades at the bottom of the steps and were met by officers in riot gear. 

Some protesters tried to push past the police, who held shields, and officers could be seen firing pepper spray into the crowd to keep them back.

Police with guns drawn watch as protesters try to break into the House chamber. (J. Scott Applewhite/The Associated Press)

It was nearly four hours later that police said the building was "secure." 

Biden called the uprising action that bordered on sedition and said, "The scenes of chaos at the Capitol do not reflect a true America, do not represent who we are.

"I call on this mob to pull back and allow democracy to go forward," Biden said. "At their best the words of a president can inspire, at their worst they can incite."

WATCH | U.S. president-elect Joe Biden's full address on the violence:

Joe Biden calls Capitol violence 'an assault'

3 years ago
Duration 7:26
U.S. president-elect Joe Biden condemns the violence on Capitol Hill and calls on Donald Trump to tell his supporters to go home.

Lawmakers get gas masks, police escorts

Members of Congress inside the House chamber were told by police to put on gas masks while other lawmakers were escorted out by Capitol police. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other senators were escorted out by staff and police.

Protesters could be seen marching through the Capitol's stately Statuary Hall shouting and waving Trump banners and American flags.

Some House lawmakers tweeted that they were sheltering in place in their offices.

Protesters were able to breach the Senate chamber. One got up on the dais and yelled "Trump won that election."

Several dozen protesters roamed the halls, yelling, "Where are they?" while others were in the visitors' galleries. 

Protesters walk in the halls of the U.S. Capitol near the Senate chamber as Capitol police officers watch Wednesday. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/The Associated Press)

Calls for calm from Republican lawmakers

Republican lawmakers called on U.S. President Donald Trump to act to de-escalate the protests as the day went on.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said he spoke with the president and told him to make a statement to "make sure that we can calm individuals down."

Republican congressman Mike Gallagher, a Trump supporter from Wisconsin, implored the president during an interview on CNN to "Call it off! Call it off!"

He also posted a video in which he said, "This is Banana Republic crap that we're watching right now."

In a tweet, Trump encouraged his supporters to "remain peaceful" but did not call for them to disperse.

The White House said National Guard troops along with other federal protective services were en route to the Capitol to help end the occupation.

The mayor of Washington, D.C., Muriel Bowser, ordered a 6 p.m. ET curfew, which was to continue for 12 hours. 

Following Biden's speech, Trump posted a video, in which he carried on his lie that the election was stolen. He called the people on the other side "evil," but told his supporters to go home.

Twitter immediately labelled the video as disputed and prevented it from being retweeted. Twitter later pulled the video down, leaving a message of its own with a link to its rules

Capitol police hold protesters at gunpoint near the House chamber on Wednesday. (Andrew Harnik/The Associated Press)

Romney calls Trump 'selfish man,' ridicules colleagues

Republican Sen. Mitt Romney blamed Trump for inciting what he called a violent "insurrection" at the Capitol.

Romney, a frequent critic of Trump, said in a statement that the violent breach was "due to a selfish man's injured pride and the outrage of his supporters whom he has deliberately misinformed for the past two months."

The Utah senator said those who continue to support Trump's "dangerous gambit" by objecting to the results of a legitimate, democratic election "will forever be seen as complicit in an unprecedented attack against our democracy."

Romney specifically ridiculed Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and other Republicans who want an "audit" of the election results: "Please!" he wrote. "No Congressional led audit will ever convince those voters, particularly when the president will continue to claim the election was stolen."

Electoral college certification interrupted

Before the suspension, Republican lawmakers mounted their first official challenge to Joe Biden's presidential election win minutes into the joint session of Congress to officially certify the electoral college vote Wednesday, objecting to state results from Arizona.

In the House chamber, Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona, flanked by Cruz, rose to object to the typically routine certification of electors' votes.

The last-gasp effort was all but certain to fail, defeated by bipartisan majorities in Congress prepared to accept the November results. Biden, who won the electoral college 306-232, is to be inaugurated Jan. 20.

The current Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, who warned his Republican colleagues off this challenge of the electoral college vote, delivered remarks earlier in the day, telling them that overruling the presidential election would "damage our republic forever." 

A Capitol police officer shoots pepper spray at a protester attempting to enter the Capitol building. ( Kevin Dietsch/Pool/Reuters)

Pence under close scrutiny

Minutes before the session opened, Vice-President Mike Pence issued a statement saying that he does not have the power to discard electoral votes that will make Democrat Joe Biden the next president.

Pence said that it was "my considered judgment that my oath to support and defend the Constitution constrains me from claiming unilateral authority to determine which electoral votes should be counted and which should not."

In the days before the joint session, Trump pressured his vice-president to toss electors from battleground states that voted for Biden.

Vice-President Mike Pence said earlier he would not reject the electoral college vote. (J. Scott Applewhite/Pool/Reuters)

Arizona 1st state to face objections

Despite Trump's repeated claims of voter fraud, election officials and his own former attorney general have said there were no problems on a scale that would change the outcome. All the states have certified their results as fair and accurate, by Republican and Democratic officials alike.

Arizona was the first of several states facing objections from the Republicans as Congress took an alphabetical reading of the election results.

Biden won Arizona by more than 10,000 votes, and eight lawsuits challenging the results have failed. The state's Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the dismissal of an election challenge.

With files from CBC News