WASHINGTON — We always knew Wednesday, Jan. 6, was going to be wild. Republicans in the House and Senate planned to object to the counting of the Electoral College vote, a process we anticipated would take more than 24 non-stop hours.
I made the rounds to our various camera positions on the Hill and met up with Kasie Hunt as she prepared for the NBC News network special, the appearances on MSNBC and Nightly News, and the other zillion demands she would have that day. Minutes before the joint session convened I told her I was heading over to the House side to prepare for pool duty inside the chamber.
When I walked into the chamber a few minutes before 2 p.m., I felt so prepared. Our team had all been reading in and studying the dynamics of the event for weeks, ever since we realized what a saga the largely procedural process was going to be.
I started my pool note, intended to add color and context to everyone’s reporting, and made up of moments that are not captured by C-Span’s cameras. Typically it’s a combination of who was refusing to put on their mask, who’s participating in a standing ovation, which members are huddled in the back chatting, maybe even a quick reference to a member caught snoozing during the extended proceedings.
“Hey from a frigid House chamber I’m your pooler for the 2-4 p.m. portion of the joint session…” I started. I didn’t get too much further when I began to sense something was off.
There were murmurs from members on the floor as Arizona representatives who were objecting to the state’s certified election win for President-elect Joe Biden continued with their speeches. I think we were all getting texts and tweet notifications about what was transpiring on the steps just outside the building.
And yet, I felt so safe. I kept thinking I was in the safest place possible,
I told my bureau chief, Ken Strickland, “Ken, I am NOT the one you need to worry about.” I said I was scared for my colleagues in the building’s offices. “I am the one in the CHAMBER. This is the safest spot in D.C.”
I looked back on a text I sent at this point to a concerned House staffer checking in on me. “Are you staying safe??” he asked.
“Wow. This is nuts. Yes thank you! I’m in chamber as pooler so feel v safe- I hope you aren’t here!!” I replied, totally naïve as to what was going on outside the building.
“Thank you. I am not thank god,” he wrote.
The session was interrupted and recessed for a few minutes. Rep. Dean Phillips, D-Minn., yelled “This is because of you!” towards the Republican side of the chamber.
The joint session resumed but at this point people were agitated and nervous.