Wyden, Merkley condemn storming of Capitol as ‘assault on democracy’

Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley called the storming of the Capitol Wednesday “a colossal failure of preparation” and the result of “what has been the failure to have a strong bipartisan push back to the lies and conspiracy theories promoted by the president of the United States since the November third election.” 

The Democrat spoke by phone to members of the Oregon media from the undisclosed location he was rushed to after protestors stormed the Capitol Wednesday, stopping Congress’s count of the electoral votes to confirm President-elect Joe Biden’s win.

Merkley’s Democratic colleague Sen. Ron Wyden and Republican Rep. Cliff Bentz also confirmed they were safe and sheltering in place in a secure location.

“What’s happening today in our nation’s Capitol is a direct assault on democracy, a riot by insurrectionists that caps off four years of Donald Trump fanning the flames of fanaticism,” Wyden said in a press release Wednesday.

Merkley said he initially thought a few protestors were outside the doors of the Senate floor but realized the situation was more serious when someone ran into the chamber.

“Nobody runs on the floor of the chamber,” Merkley said. “Certainly nobody runs up to the dais. Certainly, nobody interrupts the speech. So all of that was very, very sudden, very unusual.” 

Merkley said Vice President Mike Pence was rushed from the floor and security gave conflicting instructions, first for everyone to evacuate, and then for everyone to stay in the locked Senate chamber.

“I did look around the room to think if somebody does burst in with a gun, what, where do you, what do you do?” Merkley said. “Hit the floor? I mean thoughts like that were going through people’s heads.” 

Merkley said police are working to reestablish control of Capitol.

Before the interruption, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell gave what Merkley called a “powerful” initial speech, rejecting the GOP’s challenge to the election results.

“The voters, the courts and the states have all spoken,” McConnell said. “They’ve all spoken. If we overrule them, it would damage our republic forever.” 

In the few speeches given before the interruption, some GOP senators called on the Senate to listen to the mob and stop the election of Biden, which Merkley called “exactly the wrong position to take.” 

“The plan was to try to install President Trump to a second term through the congressional action, rather than through the vote of the people,” Merkley said. “That is a coup. This is not the vision of our constitution.”

Merkley said he expects the Senate will reconvene after all appropriate safety measures have been taken. 

“We will continue to open the electoral college sealed envelopes from the various states and we’ll continue the count,” Merkley said. “At that point I hope all House and Senate members withdraw the objections they’ve been prepared to make.” 

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