US lawmakers denounce violence as they reconvene to announce Electoral College votes

The United States Congress reconvening in the House Chamber in the US Capitol  in Washington on Jan 6, 2021.
The United States Congress reconvening in the House Chamber in the US Capitol in Washington on Jan 6, 2021.PHOTO: REUTERS
Police officers stand guard after a protest outside of the US Capitol in Washington on Jan 6, 2021.
Police officers stand guard after a protest outside of the US Capitol in Washington on Jan 6, 2021.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

WASHINGTON - The United States Congress reconvened on Wednesday (Jan 6) night, 5½ hours after its joint session to ceremonially count states' electoral college votes and declare President-elect Joe Biden the winner of the election was suspended when a pro-Trump mob stormed and occupied the Capitol building.

Denouncing the violence in strong language, lawmakers and leaders vowed that the work of democracy would continue - peacefully.

Some Republicans promised to certify Mr Biden's win that very night, although others forged ahead with their attempt to overturn states' results, which they do not have the numbers to successfully do.

"To those who wreaked havoc in our Capitol today: You did not win. Violence never wins," said Vice-President Mike Pence, presiding over the Senate as it resumed its debate.

"Freedom wins. And this is still the people's house. As we reconvene in this chamber, the world will again witness the resilience and strength of our democracy," said Mr Pence.

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell said: "The United States Senate will not be intimidated. We will not be kept out of this chamber by thugs, mobs, or threats."

"They tried to disrupt our democracy. They failed," said Mr McConnell. "This failed insurrection only underscores how crucial the task before us is for our Republic.

Congress, he said, would continue the process it had started earlier in the afternoon: counting the electoral college votes and formalise the American people's choice of the next president.

"Now we're going to finish exactly what we started. We will certify the winner of the 2020 presidential election," said Mr McConnell, who had earlier warned against his Republican colleagues' bids to object to states' certified votes.

"Those who performed these reprehensible acts cannot be called protesters. No, these were rioters and insurrectionists, goons and thugs, domestic terrorists. They do not represent America," said Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer.

"In the end, all this mob has done is delayed our work for a few hours," he added.

Several Republican senators said they had changed their minds about objecting to states' electoral votes, including outgoing Georgia senator Kelly Loeffler, who was defeated in Tuesday's (Jan 5) run-off race by her Democrat opponent Raphael Warnock.

Ms Loeffler, who on Monday had declared to a Trump rally crowd that she would object, said the events of the day had changed her mind and she could no longer "in good conscience do so".

"The violence, the lawlessness and siege of the halls of Congress are abhorrent and stand as a direct attack on what my objection was intended to protect, the sanctity of the American democratic process," she said on the Senate floor.

The House of Representatives also resumed its session at around 9.30pm after its chamber was cleaned up. The complex was declared secured around 5.40pm (6:40am Thursday Singapore time), just before the city's curfew went into effect. The police were still in the process of dispersing people from the grounds around the Capitol.

Mr Schumer said that Mr Trump shouldered much of the blame for the day's violence, a sentiment that was echoed by other Democrats, and a handful of Republicans.

"This President bears a great deal of the blame. This mob was in good part President Trump's doing, incited by his words, his lies. This violence was in good part his responsibility, his ever-lasting shame," said Mr Schumer.

"What happened here today was an insurrection incited by the President of the United States," Republican senator Mitt Romney of Utah said on the Senate floor. "Those who choose to continue to support his dangerous gambit by objecting to the results of a legitimate election will forever be seen as complicit in an unprecedented attack against democracy."

"Today's violent assault on our Capitol, an effort to subjugate American democracy by mob rule, was fomented by Mr Trump," former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, a Trump appointee, wrote in a statement.

Mr Mattis accused Mr Trump of using the presidency to destroy Americans' trust in the election and poison their respect for fellow citizens, while slamming unnamed "pseudo political leaders" for enabling him.