Mike Pence is dying a little inside as a joint session of Congress meets for what is supposed to be the fairly perfunctory task of counting the electoral votes as certified by the states, with Pence in the role of “guy who reads the numbers” but is under pressure from Donald Trump to overturn the election somehow.
President-elect Joe Biden has 306 electoral votes to Trump’s 232. But a simple count is not what Trump and many congressional Republicans have in mind, so this is going to take a while. It takes one House member and one senator to object to a state’s electoral votes being counted, and thanks to Sens. Josh Hawley, Ted Cruz, and others, objections are planned for at least Pennsylvania, Arizona, and Georgia, each of which will draw two hours of debate.
It’s a terrible thing and it’s going to be a wretched day, but on the other hand, knowing that Senate Republicans are about to be demoted does make it a little easier.
Mike Pence has affirmed, correctly, that he has no power to change the outcome: “It is my considered judgement 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.”
Alabama and Alaska were counted without objection, because Donald Trump won them so Republicans are all for it. Arizona, though, drew Republican objection as planned, with Sen. Ted Cruz getting more applause from his colleagues than he probably ever has. The Senate has now withdrawn to debate that objection, which was remarkably non-specific about what exactly was wrong in Arizona.
While the polite coup is going on inside the Capitol, the Trump goons are rioting. One House office building–Cannon—has been evacuated by Capitol Hill Police as has the Madison building of the Library of Congress. Trump terrorists have stormed the steps of the Capitol Building.
McConnell is addressing the Senate, finally having apparently decided to break with Trump and almost tearfully talking about a “shared respect for the groundrules of our system,” about not “drifting apart into two separate tribes.” This is vintage trolling McConnell after the destruction he’s wrought over the Senate as Majority Leader. “Nothing before us proves illegality anywhere near the massive scale, the massive scale, that would’ve tipped the entire election. Nor can public doubt alone justify a radical break when the doubt itself was incited without any evidence,” he says. As if this will stop Cruz or Hawley or any of them.
Ted Cruz up now, piously saying that it’s important to do this because so many people believe the election was rigged. Literally he’s claiming to be trying to respond to the problem he is actively encouraging. People believe this election was rigged because Donald Trump has relentlessly told them so, and Republicans like Cruz have backed him.
The Senate abruptly recessed. and Senate staff are being told to shelter in place. Pence has been moved out of the chamber, apparently by Secret Service, Capitol Police. but it’s not clear. They have reportedly gotten outside the Senate chamber.