The U.S. Congress certified Joe Biden’s win in the 2020 presidential election early Thursday morning, hours after overwhelmingly voting against an objection by U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, to the certification of Arizona's results and another to the results from Pennsylvania.
The Wednesday night vote on Arizona — 93-6 in the U.S. Senate and 303-121 in the U.S. House — came after Congress reconvened to certify Electoral College votes for president, hours after the U.S. Capitol devolved into chaos. Supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the building Wednesday afternoon, interrupting debate on certification. The disorder brought the discussion on Cruz's objection to a halt.
Cruz was one of six senators who voted for his objection on Arizona. The state's other Texan in the Senate, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, voted against it.
So, too, did Cruz's former chief of staff, now a member of the U.S. House.
"I was not going to, and I will not be voting to reject the elections, and it may sign my political death warrant," U.S. Sen. Chip Roy, R-Austin, said as the House debated. "I swore an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States and I will not bend it for political expediency."
For an objection to succeed, both chambers would have had to support Cruz. Even questioning the results at this point is a historical aberration. Early Thursday morning, there were objections from the House and Senate over the certification of Pennsylvania. Again, both bodies retreated to their chambers and voted on that question, and again, the certification was upheld. In the Senate, the objection failed 92-7, and House members rejected it 282-138.
Most Texas House Republicans voted with Cruz. All Texas Democrats voted against. U.S. Reps. Kay Granger of Fort Worth and Kevin Brady of The Woodlands were recently diagnosed with COVID-19 and did not vote.
Next in the certification process, members of the House and Senate united in the House chamber, where the electoral votes for each remaining state were read and counted in alphabetical order. Only Pennsylvania’s results were challenged by both chambers; the Senate voted without a long debate, while the House voted only after members had talked for two hours.
A short time later, the members reconvened, went through the list of remaining states, and then certified the Electoral College results in favor of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.
"To those who wreaked havoc in our Capitol today, you did not win," Vice President Michael Pence said of the protesters, as the proceedings resumed. "Violence never wins. Freedom wins. And this is still the people’s house. And as we reconvene in this chamber, the world will again witness the resilience and strength of our democracy ... Let's get back to work."
The violent disruption caused Congress to abandon the ceremonial counting of the electoral votes, which was being done to formalize President-elect Joe Biden's victory over Trump. Many members were forced to shelter in place.
But by evening, congressional leaders said they were committed to completing the work of certifying Biden's victory. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she consulted with Vice President Mike Pence and military and law enforcement officials, and decided to reconvene Wednesday night. Texas' senior senator, John Cornyn, reportedly told reporters that the Senate also planned to convene.
The Washington Post reported Wednesday afternoon that Republican lawmakers were intervening with Cruz and urging him and others to abandon their objections. Cruz had given no public indication that he planned to do so.
The unrest led to stunning scenes in the national's Capitol, with rioters breaking windows, waving flags and walking through lawmakers' offices and on the House floor. One woman was shot inside the building. Police later said she died. Many elected officials and their staffs, meanwhile, had to evacuate or hunker down to avoid danger.
"The Capitol building has been breached and both chambers are locked down," U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-El Paso, said on Twitter soon after the breach. "This is the chaos and lawlessness @realDonaldTrump has created."
Before the chaos began, a number of Texas Republicans in the U.S. House had voiced their intent to object to the certification, citing baseless allegations of widespread voter fraud. On Saturday, Cruz led a band of Senate Republicans who said they would object to Wednesday's proceedings and instead launch "an emergency 10-day audit of the election returns in the disputed states."
"I would urge to both sides, perhaps a bit less certitude and a bit more recognition that we are gathered at a time when democracy is in crisis," he said in the Senate on Wednesday. "Recent polling shows that 39% of Americans believe the election that just occurred quote 'was rigged.' You may not agree with that assessment, but it is nonetheless a reality for nearly half the country.
"Even if you do not share that conviction, it is the responsibility, I believe, of this office to acknowledge that is a profound threat to this country and to the legitimacy of any administrations that will come in the future."
Cruz has long been one of the leaders of the efforts to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the election, expressing support for lawsuits seeking to overturn the results and criticizing the vote-counting process in swing states.
On Wednesday, he stood during a joint session of the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate to register his objection alongside U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Arizona. Gosar spoke first, saying he objected to the counting of the votes from his home state. Pence then asked whether the objection was in writing and signed by a senator, and Cruz answered, "It is."
The lawmakers said objection was on the grounds that the votes “were not under all of the known circumstances, regularly given.” Neither Cruz nor Gosar elaborated on the decision. The House and Senate then recessed to discuss the objection in their chambers.
Cruz's objection was widely expected to fail in both the House and the Senate. Democrats control the U.S. House, and a coalition of Republicans and Democrats in the Senate was expected to knock down his objections in that chamber as well. Cornyn, the state's other senator, announced he would not join this effort, but a number of House Republicans from Texas had said in recent days they would object.
The basis of the objections are allegations of widespread voter fraud in contested states. There is no credible evidence of widespread fraud in the 2020 election. Trump and many of his supporters have alleged that the election was stolen from him. Lawsuits seeking to overturn the results have failed repeatedly in the courts.
Prior to the disruption, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — a close ally of Cornyn's — took the Senate floor during the Arizona debate and delivered an uncharacteristically emotional speech opposing the effort by Cruz and his colleagues.
"We are debating a step that has never been taken in American history, whether Congress should overrule the voters and overturn a presidential election," McConnell said. "I've served 36 years in Senate. This will be the most important vote I've ever cast.
"Nothing before us proves illegality anywhere near the massive scale, the massive scale, that would have tipped the entire election," he added. "Nor can public doubt alone justify a radical break when the doubt itself was incited without any evidence. The Constitution gives us here in Congress a limited role. We cannot simply declare ourselves a national board of elections on steroids. The voters, the courts and the states have all spoken. They've all spoken. If we overrule them, it would damage our republic forever. This election actually was not unusually close."