January 6 was set to be a big day for American politics, and that turned out to be true – but what the consequences will be, nobody knows. It is the date that a joint session of Congress – both the Senate and House of Representatives – met to certify the Electoral College vote for the 2020 election. The election race between Joe Biden and President Donald Trump has become one of the most controversial in American history – with Biden voted in by the electors, but Trump and his supporters raising questions about voter fraud.
A few members of Trump’s political party, the Republicans, were set to challenge the vote certification. The first challenge was made just a few minutes after the proceedings started, and debate soon began. The joint session began at 1 p.m. Eastern, and by 1:15, Vice President Mike Pence had to recognize the objection to the electoral count in just the third state in line, Arizona.
As Texas Senator Ted Cruz said during the debate over the Arizona electoral count, many Republicans plan to challenge the electoral counts of six states – not to set aside the election, but to put it on hold until a bipartisan committee can complete a ten-day audit of the election process.
About an hour after his speech, some protesters ended up breaching the barriers at the nearby Capitol building and broke inside – where members of Congress paused their proceedings and attempted to evacuate.
While the number of protesters who entered the congressional building was a small percentage of the large numbers who peacefully attended the rally, there were dramatic scenes as some went into the Senate and House chambers, shouting “We Want Trump” while police attempted to detain them.
President Trump tweeted in opposition to violence, imploring protesters, “Please support our Capitol Police and Law Enforcement. They are truly on the side of our Country. Stay peaceful!”
Senator Cruz chimed in with a similar message. “Violence is always unacceptable. Even when passions run high,” he tweeted. “Anyone engaged in violence – especially against law enforcement – should be fully prosecuted. God bless the Capitol Police and the honorable men & women of law enforcement who show great courage keeping all of us safe.”
Soon after, President Trump called in the National Guard to quell the unrest. The Washington, D.C. mayor, Muriel Bowser, also declared a 12-hour city curfew from 6 p.m., stating that no one would be allowed on the streets during that time, except for a few approved people.
What does this dramatic event mean for the electoral certification process? What good – or bad – will come of this? These are just two of the many questions for which we don’t yet have answers.