Dubai: The US Congress formally certified Joe Biden as the next US president on Thursday, hours after supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol, forcing lawmakers to take cover under tables and triggering scenes of mayhem in the seat of American democracy.
The violence left many questions unanswered, including why the security forces were not prepared despite threats of violence for many weeks.
As expected, lawmakers in the Senate and House of Representatives defeated feeble Republican efforts to deny Biden the electoral votes needed to win. The announcement of the 306-232 electoral vote victory closes the door on the effort by Trump and his supporters to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
So what does this mean for Biden? Here's a look at what lies ahead for the 46th President of the United States.
When is the inauguration?
According to law, inauguration day is January 20. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will be sworn in at noon (9pm UAE time). Biden will move into the White House later in the day.
The US Constitution initially set March 4 as the day for new leaders to take their oaths of office, taking into consideration the time needed for leaders to make their way into the capital in the days before planes and trains. But this also meant that the time an outgoing president stayed in office was long. Eventually, this lengthy time frame was changed and the 20th Amendment, ratified in 1933, decreed the new president would be inaugurated on January 20 instead.
What happens till then?
The president-elect has signaled that he plans to move quickly to build his government, focusing first on the coronavirus pandemic that will likely dominate the early days of his administration. He will also see to bridge the divide in a nation that has been split down the middle.
Over the past few weeks Biden has been filling key positions in his Cabinet, the latest being Merrick Garland who will be the new attorney general. Biden has said that the federal appeals court judge and three others he has selected for senior Justice Department positions will “restore the independence” of the agency and faith in the rule of law.
Will the transition be smooth?
Donald Trump has released a statement pledging an "orderly transition" but suggesting he would remain in frontline politics, amid speculation that he may run again in 2024.
"Even though I totally disagree with the outcome of the election, and the facts bear me out, nevertheless there will be an orderly transition on January 20th," he said.
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"I have always said we would continue our fight to ensure that only legal votes were counted. While this represents the end of the greatest first term in presidential history, it's only the beginning of our fight to Make America Great Again!"
Is there an attempt to remove Trump from office?
Since the attack on the Capitol on Wednesday, some longtime allies of the president have suggested whether members of his Cabinet should invoke the 25th Amendment and remove him from office. Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie told ABC late Wednesday that “responsible members of the Cabinet” should be thinking about fulfilling their oath of office, adding that Trump had "violated his oath and betrayed the American people."
Others doubted the effort would go anywhere as Trump has less than two weeks left in office.
The Twenty-fifth Amendment (Amendment XXV) to the United States Constitution describes how a US president and vice-president may be succeeded or replaced if they are unable to fulfil their responsibilities.
Does the Democratic win in Georgia make it easier for Biden to govern?
The election of Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff in the Georgia run-off on Tuesday put the Senate at an even 50-50, giving Vice President-elect Kamala Harris the tie-breaking vote and removing control of the chamber from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his fellow Republicans. This means Biden’s party controls both the House of Representatives as well as the Senate.
Democratic control of the Senate offers President-elect Joe Biden an opportunity to advance parts of his climate agenda, but the paper-thin majority likely puts sweeping global warming legislation beyond reach.
But it also means Democrats could push moderate proposals that many lawmakers in both parties support, like reducing carbon emissions from transportation, advanced nuclear energy technology, and domestic production of critical minerals used in batteries and renewable energy.
It will also make it easier for Democratic lawmakers to use the Congressional Review Act to reverse some last-minute rollbacks of pollution standards by Donald Trump's administration, according to legislative experts.
But Biden’s vision for a $2 trillion climate plan, including broad limits on greenhouse gas emissions or federal mandates for clean energy, may be harder to achieve through legislation in a divided Senate still gripped by bitterness over the Nov. 3 election.
Most bills require 60 votes in the 100-seat chamber to pass.
Many budget related bills require only a simple majority.
Will there be a probe into the Capitol violence?
Lawmakers are vowing an investigation into how law enforcement handled Wednesday's violent breach at the Capitol, questioning whether a lack of preparedness allowed a mob to occupy and vandalize the building.
US Capitol Police, who are charged with protecting Congress, turned to other law enforcement for help with the mob that overwhelmed the complex and sent lawmakers into hiding. Both law enforcement and Trump supporters deployed chemical irritants during the hours-long occupation of the complex before it was cleared Wednesday evening, agencies reported.
Four people died, one of them a woman who was shot and killed by police inside the Capitol. Three other people died after suffering “medical emergencies” related to the breach, said Robert Contee, chief of the city's Metropolitan Police Department, AP reported.
Police said 52 people were arrested as of Wednesday night, including 26 on the Capitol grounds. Fourteen police officers were injured, Contee said.
Rep. Zoe Lofgren chairwoman of the House Administration Committee, said the breach ``raises grave security concerns” adding that her committee will work with House and Senate leaders to review the police response - and its preparedness.
What happened at the Capitol on January 6?
The chaos inside the US Capitol on Wednesday came after the police force that protects the legislative complex was overrun by a mob of Trump supporters in what law enforcement officials called a catastrophic failure to prepare.
While events such as a presidential inauguration involve detailed security plans by numerous security agencies, far less planning went into protecting the joint session of Congress that convened on Wednesday to ratify the results of the 2020 presidential election, the officials said.
That lapse came despite glaring warning signs of potential violence by hardline supporters of President Donald Trump, who are inflamed by Trump’s claims of a stolen election and hope to block the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden, Reuters reported.
Who handled the security?
Security initially was handled almost entirely alone by the US Capitol Police, a 2,000-member force under the control of Congress and dedicated to protecting the 126-acre Capitol Grounds. For reasons that remained unclear as of early Thursday, other arms of the US federal government’s vast security apparatus did not arrive in force for hours as rioters besieged the seat of Congress. The Capitol is a short walk from where Trump in a speech railed against the election just before the riot began, calling the vote an egregious assault on our democracy and urging his supporters to walk down to the Capitol in a Save America March.
Were there threats earlier?
The counting of the electoral votes of the presidential election by Congress, normally a formality, was preceded by weeks of threats in social media that planned pro-Trump protests could descend into violence. Despite those rumblings of danger, the Capitol Police force did not request advance help to secure the building from other federal agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security, according to one senior official, Reuters reported. And National Guard reinforcements, summoned by the city’s mayor, were not mobilised until more than an hour after protesters had first breached the barricades.
In stark contrast, those agencies were aggressively deployed by the Trump administration during last summer’s police brutality protests in Washington and elsewhere in the United States.
Is the Capitol difficult to defend?
The officers are trained to keep protesters off the Capitol’s marble outdoor steps, to protect the complex like a citadel. But there are so many windows and doors in the 19th-century complex that it is difficult to defend them all, said Terrance Gainer, who served as Capitol Police chief and later as the US Senates Sergeant at Arms, its chief law enforcement officer, Reuters reported. Once they lost the steps, they lost the doors and windows, Gainer said.
What did the protesters do?
As hordes of rioters streamed into the heart of American government, they could be seen on camera roaming freely through the historic halls swinging from a balcony, rifling through the offices of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and even sitting in the chair reserved for the Senate’s presiding officer. One rioter was captured by a photographer casually shouldering a large Confederate battle flag as he strode inside the Capitol.
- with inputs from agencies