WASHINGTON — Congress made the obvious official on Friday. President Barack Obama has been re-elected.
In a joint session, Congress formally certified that Obama and Vice President Joe Biden were the winners in the November election with 332 electoral votes, well more than the 270 required. Republican Mitt Romney and his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, won 206 votes.
It's a mostly ceremonial – yet constitutionally necessary – vote that's mostly intriguing to political junkies and policy wonks. The count Friday lacked the suspense of the drawn-out campaign and election but was steeped in tradition.
Biden and about a dozen senators trekked across the Capitol from the Senate to the House chamber, and the vice president joined House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, on the rostrum. Senate pages carried two dark wooden boxes that contained the results of the electoral votes that had been counted in the state capitals last month. Clerks used silver letter openers to unseal the envelopes.
Taking turns, the leaders of the Senate Rules Committee – Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn. – and the top members of the House Administration Committee – Reps. Candice Miller, R-Mich., and Robert Brady, D-Pa. – read the results from each state. Biden, who presided over the session, announced the final results to applause from the scattering of House and Senate members in the chamber.
The 12th Amendment directs the electors chosen by the states to meet and vote for president and vice president. Each state gets its equivalent in the 435-member House and the 100-member Senate. The District of Columbia gets the other three electors. Their certified tally sheets must be counted in Washington.
The low-key session was in sharp contrast to the drama in January 2001, when Vice President Al Gore, the loser in the disputed election, presided over the certification of an electoral count that gave the presidency to his rival, Republican George W. Bush. Gore had beaten Bush in the popular vote but lost the electoral count.
Months after the November election, the final official vote from all 50 states and the District of Columbia showed Obama with 65,899,660 votes, or 51.1 percent, and Romney with 60,932,152 votes, or 47.2 percent. Obama is the first president since Republican Dwight Eisenhower to win back-to-back presidential elections with more than 51 percent of the popular vote.
Chief Justice John Roberts will swear in Obama at noon on Jan. 20 at the White House in a private ceremony, and then administer the oath again on the West Front of the Capitol the next day. The Constitution requires that the inauguration take place on Jan. 20 but because it is a Sunday, the public session and the accompanying parade and festivities will occur on Monday.
Biden has asked Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor to swear him in for a second term. She will be the first Hispanic to administer either a presidential or vice presidential oath.