Politics

Trump Election Is Made Official Over Scattered Objections

House Democrats object to Electoral College results, but senators remain mum

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, top right, reacts as Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., top left, puts down an objection by a Democratic House member to the Electoral College count, during a joint session of Congress to tally the electoral ballots for U.S. president and vice president on Friday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

For Donald Trump, all that’s left is the oath of office — and, likely, many tweets.

House Democratic efforts to challenge the electoral process failed Friday when no senators joined the objections as Congress certified Trump’s Electoral College victory.

The counting of the votes during a joint session, mandated by the Constitution, was the final hurdle Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence had to clear. Several House Democrats rose to voice objections to specific state results, but were unable to secure backing that would have erected a late obstacle.

Opponents cited voter suppression as a reason for the results to not be made legitimate.

Trump will be sworn in as the 45th president of the United States in 14 days. He secured 304 electoral votes, while Hillary Clinton mustered only 227.

“It is over,” said Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr., after a failed objection by Washington Democratic Rep. Pramila Jayapal to awarding Georgia’s 16 electoral votes to Trump. House and Senate Republicans, clustered on the left side of the chamber, roared their approval, stood and applauded.

California Rep. Maxine Waters objects to the Electoral College count during a joint session of Congress to tally the electoral ballots for president and vice president on Friday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
California Rep. Maxine Waters objects to the Electoral College count during a joint session of Congress to tally the electoral ballots for president and vice president on Friday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Texas Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee rose to object several times, and it appeared Republicans in control of the chamber, at times, turned off her microphone. At other points, Biden, following the rules for the quadrennial session, shut her down each time.

“We respect the officers of the institution,” she said later of Biden’s refusal to let her and other Democrats explain their objections beyond what they were able to get out in the midst of his gavel clangs.

Jackson Lee said that while she understood that the rules prohibit the vice president from allowing their pleas to be heard, she “would have rather the rules [been] broken in this instance, waived in this instance, so that we could speak not only to the American people but, more importantly, to our colleagues.”

She chalked up the Senate’s resistance to it being a more deliberative body, while the House, she said, conducts its research more quickly.

“We worked pretty hard [to get a senator],” she told reporters. “But I’m not offended by the fact that we did not, at this point, get a senator. But I do know we had individuals who were sympathetic.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who had said she would not encourage her members to object but would support such moves, pumped her fists to encourage some of her dissenting colleagues.

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From left, Republican Sens. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, John Kennedy of Louisiana, Dean Heller of Nevada and Ted Cruz of Texas applaud at the end of the the Electoral College count during a joint session of Congress in the House chamber on Friday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
From left, Republican Sens. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, John Kennedy of Louisiana, Dean Heller of Nevada and Ted Cruz of Texas applaud at the end of the the Electoral College count during a joint session of Congress in the House chamber on Friday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The Republican side was mostly full with members chatting and sharing laughs. Across the aisle, there were many empty seats — and the Democrats who did show up largely sat quietly with somber faces. Pages and staff occupied an entire Democratic section. Roll Call counted only seven Senate Democrats inside the chamber.

Biden loudly pounded his gavel and shouted over several objecting House Democrats, who answered by shouting the remainder of their objections. Each time, however, their pleas were shut down by the vice president and, a few times, by booing Republican lawmakers.

Biden made the Trump-Pence victory official when he declared the “announcement of the state of the vote by the president of the Senate shall be deemed sufficient declaration.”

Following the session, House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer told reporters that had Russia intervened in the election by hacking computers on behalf of Clinton, the chamber’s galleries would have been packed with angry Trump supporters.

“If a senator had signed, we would have been able to have a debate, two hours in the House, two hours in the Senate on what in fact the Russians did to skew the election results,” the Maryland Democrat said.

Several protesters representing Democracy Spring, including two African-Americans, stood in the public gallery and yelled their objections before they were escorted out.

As members lingered and made their way out, Biden met with a few House Democratic women who had voiced objections. The small group hugged, then the vice president posed for a picture with them.

The joint session began when Senate pages carried wooden boxes with the Electoral College votes into the House chamber. They were followed by Biden and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who walked side-by-side. GOP Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri and Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, the official vote counters, followed behind them.

Senate pages lead the procession of the Senate through the U.S. Capitol Rotunda into the House chamber with the Electoral College ballot boxes on Friday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Senate pages lead the procession of the Senate through the U.S. Capitol Rotunda into the House chamber with the Electoral College ballot boxes on Friday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Senators, mostly Republican, then marched across the Capitol to the House side. Before entering the chamber, Biden and McConnell were deep in conversation. At one point, the outgoing vice president — a former senator — put his arm behind McConnell and gave the back of his neck a tight squeeze.

The occasion provided a last moment of pomp and recognition for Biden, who has been a senator or vice president since 1973. He will become a private citizen on Jan. 20 for the first time in 44 years. Biden was greeted with a standing ovation.

Biden and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell arrive in the House chamber for a joint session of Congress to tally the Electoral College votes for president and vice president on Friday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Biden and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell arrive in the House chamber for a joint session of Congress to tally the Electoral College votes for president and vice president on Friday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Any chance for major drama evaporated a day earlier when Democratic Rep. Ed Perlmutter of Colorado dropped his threat to try to lodge a formal challenge over what the U.S. intelligence community has concluded was Russian government-backed hacking intended to influence the U.S. election.

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“This action by a foreign nation was unprecedented, violated our Constitution and undermined the founding pillars of American liberty and democracy,” Perlmutter had said in a statement, according to The Denver Post. “This is not about trying to stop Donald Trump from becoming president. This is about the fact that our liberty, freedom and democracy were compromised by Russia’s intrusion into America’s election.”

According to Article II of the Constitution, any objections to the states’ electoral vote tallies must be signed by at least one senator and one representative. It appeared by Thursday evening that no senator was willing to join Perlmutter in throwing the final stage of the 2016 election into chaos.

Rema Rahman, Simone Pathé, Bridget Bowman and Niels Lesniewski contributed to this report.

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