NASHVILLE — Lawmakers from Georgia and Tennessee are condemning the violence that erupted Wednesday at the U.S. Capitol, and at least two of them were spurred to back away from a GOP effort to formally object to the presidential election results.
Late Wednesday, Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and Sen. Kelly Loeffler of Georgia said they would vote to certify the election of President-elect Joe Biden — a ministerial act that President Donald Trump and a mob of his supporters in Washington spent Wednesday trying to stop.
"The violence, the lawlessness and the seizure of the halls of Congress are abhorrent and stand as a direct attack on the very institution my objection was intended to protect — the sanctity of the American democratic process," Loeffler said in a floor speech, adding, "There is no excuse for the events that took place in these chambers today, and I pray that America never suffers such a dark day again."
Blackburn, who had been a leader in an effort in the U.S. Senate to block the certification of the election, reversed course on Twitter, saying, "I will vote in support of certifying the Electoral College results."
Earlier in the day, she tweeted, "To the protestors that have breached the Capitol building: you are disrupting the democratic process. You should be ashamed of yourself. This is violence. This is a crime. It must stop."
Lawmakers were sent scrambling for cover earlier in the day as demonstrators, who earlier listened as Trump appeared in person before them to continue to press his claims of election fraud, later marched to the Capitol, breached security, clashed with police and sent senators and representatives scrambling. The president's claims have been rejected by the states, the courts and his own administration, but are still embraced by his followers.
Blackburn and newly sworn-in U.S. Sen. Bill Hagerty, also a Tennessee Republican, were among a group of Republicans seeking to contest Biden's official certification as the next president, citing many of the same rejected election complaints as the president and his followers.
They were expected to lose the effort, with Democrats controlling a majority in the House and many Senate Republicans, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, saying that although they don't like it, Biden won the 2020 election.
Hagerty and Blackburn have been closely aligned on the GOP effort to reject the election results, and they both voted against the first "objection" considered by Congress, repudiating the election results showing Biden won Arizona, according to The Tennessean.
Earlier in the day, Hagerty tweeted, "What is happening at the U.S. Capitol right now is not peaceful, this is violence. I condemn it in the strongest terms. We are a nation of laws and this must stop."
U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Ooltewah, tweeted, "Peaceful protests are protected by the First Amendment in the U.S. Constitution. What is happening at the U.S. Capitol right now is not peaceful. I strongly condemn these actions."
Fleischmann voted to oppose the election results.
In a series of tweets, U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, a Memphis Democrat, said he was safely in his office, and he blamed Trump.
The president spoke angrily to a crowd of thousands of his supporters just before they stormed the Capitol. Trump continued claiming the election had been "stolen" even though the Department of Justice, the Electoral College and the U.S. Supreme Court have upheld the results.
"Trump is an enemy of America," Cohen wrote. "This is now a third-world country led by a tin-pot dictator." The Democrat later added: "Russia, if you are reading this, come and take your president home!"
Freshman U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Georgia Republican and ardent Trump supporter, tweeted "Be safe. Be smart. Stay peaceful. Obey the laws. This is not a time for violence. This is a time to support President Trump and support election integrity. God bless!"
Former U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tennessee — who criticized Trump in August 2017 over the president's support for white supremacists involved in the Charlottesville, Va., protest in which a woman was killed — tweeted "the American people are witnessing the true character of Donald Trump today and the culmination of his actions.
"I hope those aiding and abetting him in Congress will rethink their approach, with the understanding that if they do not, they will own this with him," warned Corker, a former Chattanooga mayor.
U.S. Rep. Tim Burchett, a Knoxville Republican, said "the rioting at the Capitol is disgusting and criminal. The president needs to publicly tell his supporters to stop or people could get hurt or possibly die. Thank God for the Capitol Police officers working to get the situation under control; they have families just like we do."
Also tweeting was U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, a Nashville Democrat, who wrote, "This is a dark day for America."
Fleischmann said in a telephone conversation that he and Burchett were twice evacuated from offices in the House's Cannon Office Building due to alleged bomb threats.
"My staff and I are safe," Fleischmann said. Asked whether he placed blame on Trump for inciting supporters as some Democrats charge, the congressman said, "I don't know what the causes of these were because I was actually going about my job and doing my job."
But he said, "There's such a tremendous amount of tension, you could feel the tension this morning when I was escorted to the House chamber by security. Just a very difficult and sad day."
Calling the situation "very sad and tumultuous," Fleischmann recalled a 2017 Congressional baseball game when a left-wing extremist opened fire, wounding U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Louisiana, and others while sending Fleischmann, colleagues and staffers fleeing for cover.
"I'd hoped and prayed we'd never have another day like this," Fleischmann said.
Before the storming of the Capitol, Scalise was at the vanguard of the Republicans in Congress making speeches in the interest of opposing the election results.
Contact Andy Sher at email@example.com or 615-255-0550. Follow on Twitter @AndySher1.