How Kentucky's congressional delegation responded to the Capitol Hill riot
Kentucky's longest-serving congressional representative faced a call for his resignation Thursday morning, hours after voting to throw out electoral votes in two states following a riot at the U.S. Capitol.
U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, R-5th District, the lone member of the Bluegrass State's congressional delegation to support efforts to throw out Arizona's 11 electoral votes and Pennsylvania's 20 electoral votes, sided with "domestic terrorists," the Kentucky Democratic Party contended, when he voted against certifying President-elect Joe Biden's win in the November election.
“Yesterday, after domestic terrorists breached the U.S. Capitol in one of the worst moments in our country’s history, Congressman Hal Rogers did the unthinkable: he enabled and emboldened the mob by voting to overturn the will of the American voters," Kentucky Democratic Party spokeswoman Marisa McNee said. "It was an act so reprehensible that no other Republican in Kentucky’s federal delegation was willing to join Rogers.
"If Hal Rogers wants to side with domestic terrorists, he should resign from Congress immediately and let someone else represent his district."
Rogers was critical of those who stormed the Capitol but defended his vote in a statement early Thursday morning, saying that constituents' "uncertainty and a lack of confidence" in changes made to the 2020 voting process had led to his vote and that "valid questions about the integrity of this election" had come up since November. He offered no specific evidence but cited "postponed election audits and legal hearings."
"I received hundreds of calls and emails from people across southern and eastern Kentucky questioning the integrity of the presidential election in other states," Rogers said. "Every American should have confidence in knowing that every fair vote is accurately counted."
A spokesperson from Rogers' office did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the calls for his resignation.
Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul and U.S. Reps. James Comer, Brett Guthrie, Thomas Massie and Andy Barr — all Republicans — voted against the objections. U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, the lone Democrat in Kentucky's delegation, also voted against them.
The Senate handily voted down the Arizona objection 93-6, while the House also rejected it 303-121 — though a majority of Republican House members voted in favor of the objection. Meanwhile, the Pennsylvania objection failed 92-7 in the Senate and 282-138 in the House.
Those votes came hours after Congress was forced into lockdown after rioters supporting Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol following a rally in favor of overturning the election that included a fiery speech from the president. Four people died in the chaos, including a woman who was shot by a Capitol Police officer.
Members of Congress finished certifying the Electoral College following those objections in the early hours of Thursday morning, confirming Biden's victory. He and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris are set to be inaugurated Jan. 20.
What happens in the meantime, though, remains to be seen.
Yarmuth doesn't want to wait. He called for Trump to be removed from office Thursday afternoon.
"While it is true that Trump has just 13 days remaining in office, it took only one for him — with his supporters in Congress and in the streets — to turn a centuries-old ceremonial act into a violent, if pathetic, coup attempt that threatened American democracy, humiliated our nation on the world stage, and left four people dead," said Yarmuth, who represents Louisville. "One more day in office is too many and a risk we should all now agree is not worth taking."
McConnell, who called his support for certifying the election "the most important vote I have ever cast," did not push for Trump's removal in a Thursday statement but called for an investigation into the security failures that allowed the rioters to breach the Capitol.
"The ultimate blame for yesterday lies with the unhinged criminals who broke down doors, trampled our nation’s flag, fought with law enforcement, and tried to disrupt our democracy, and with those who incited them," said McConnell, whose wife, Elaine Chao, resigned as secretary of the Department of Transportation over the riots. "But this fact does not and will not preclude our addressing the shocking failures in the Capitol’s security posture and protocols.”
Other Kentucky Republicans also spoke out following the shocking scene.
Paul, the commonwealth's junior senator, said Wednesday's "mayhem sets back any intelligent debate for a generation." He did not issue a statement Thursday.
Meanwhile, Massie, of the 4th District, said in a Thursday radio interview on WVHU that he came into Wednesday thinking the day had potential to go off the rails. He said he sent his staff home after he saw a window at the Capitol broken, though only two made it out before the lockdown went into effect.
"The rest of my staff had to come back up to the office, where we barricaded the doors," said Massie, who declined to join other representatives at a central gathering location and blamed Capitol Police for the breach. "I was armed, so another congressman joined me and his staff, and that's where we spent several hours before they cleared the situation. It was tense."
In an interview with the USA TODAY Network, Massie said he hadn't considered whether Trump should be removed from office but said the president should bear some of the blame for the chaos.
"His speech concerned me," Massie told The Cincinnati Enquirer. "He was posturing to the nation that if people did something, they could change the result of the election."
Comer, who had pushed for a "full debate" on the election results, called Wednesday a "surreal, extraordinary day — a very dark day in the history of America" in an interview Thursday on Fox News. The 1st District congressman said he was there when crowds broke glass on the door leading into the House. The "mob violence" he witnessed was "unacceptable," he said.
Guthrie, who represents the 2nd District in Central Kentucky, told WKU Public Radio that he does not blame Trump for the violence, which occurred while he was in his office. An investigation into the people who broke into the Capitol is needed, he added.
Barr did not respond to a request for comment Thursday, but in a statement issued Wednesday, the 6th District congressman denounced the riot as "tragic, outrageous and devastating."