Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has become the highest-ranking Republican to congratulate Democrat Joe Biden’s presidential election victory, 38 days after Biden was projected as the winner.
McConnell joined several fellow Republican legislators in acknowledging Biden as president-elect after the Electoral College affirmed Biden’s victory on Monday.
“Yesterday, electors met in all 50 states, so, as of this morning, our country has officially a president-elect and a vice president-elect,” McConnell said on Tuesday on the floor of the US Senate.
“Many of us hoped that the presidential election would yield a different result, but our system of government has processes to determine who will be sworn in on January 20. The Electoral College has spoken,” he continued.
“So, today I want to congratulate President-elect Joe Biden,” McConnell said. He also congratulated Vice president-elect Kamala Harris, who serves as a Democratic senator from California. “Beyond our differences, all Americans can take pride that our nation has a female vice president-elect for the very first time,” McConnell added.
Biden told reporters Tuesday he called McConnell to thank him for his comments and said they agreed to meet soon.
“I told him although we disagree on a lot of things, there are things I think we can work together on, we’ve always been straight with one another, and we agreed we’d get together sooner than later,” Biden said.
Monday, the Electoral College met in state capitals across the US and cast its votes – 306 for Biden and Harris and 232 for President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence – officially marking Biden’s victory over Trump. The Electoral College votes will be tallied and certified by Congress on January 6, paving the way for Biden and Harris to be sworn in on January 20.
Following the Electoral College vote Monday, Republican lawmakers who had deferred to Trump’s claims of a “rigged” election and unfounded allegations of widespread voting fraud had started publicly acknowledging Biden as president-elect, something most others did on November 7, when it was projected that Biden had won the November 3 election.
South Dakota Senator John Thune, the second-ranking Republican in the Senate, said Monday that once the Electoral College count was over, “ you have to face the music … it’s time for everybody to move on.”
Missouri Senator Roy Blunt, who is the chairman of the committee overseeing the January 20 inaugural ceremony, said his committee will now “deal with Vice President Biden as the president-elect.”
Staunch Trump ally, Senator Lindsey Graham, responded “yeah” when asked by reporters Monday if he thought Biden was president-elect, USA Today reported. Graham went on to say that although there still is a “very, very narrow path for the president I don’t see how it gets there from here”.
“But having said that, I think we’ll let those legal challenges play out,” Graham added.
Graham is likely referring to an effort from some congressional Republicans to object to some of the electoral votes during the certification process in Congress on January 6. If one US House member and one Senator object to a state’s votes in writing, Congress would have to debate and then vote on the objection.
Given that the House is controlled by Democrats and several Republican senators are already on the record opposing this plot, “It’s not going anywhere,” Thune told reporters Monday, according to the Associated Press.
Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn said he thinks the idea “would be a bad mistake” that would be quickly rejected in the Republican-controlled Senate.
“There comes a time when you have to realize that, despite your best efforts, you’ve been unsuccessful, that’s sort of the nature of these elections. You’ve got to have a winner. You’ve got to have a loser,” said Cornyn, according to the AP.
The inevitability of it all did not stop Trump from challenging the election results prior to the Electoral College’s step towards finality Monday. And the wave of key Republicans acknowledging Biden’s victory does not seem to be changing Trump’s mind.
Trump was right back at alleging voter fraud Tuesday morning on Twitter, writing “Tremendous problems being found with voting machines. They are so far off it is ridiculous. Able to take a landslide victory and reduce it to a tight loss.”
Tremendous problems being found with voting machines. They are so far off it is ridiculous. Able to take a landslide victory and reduce it to a tight loss. This is not what the USA is all about. Law enforcement shielding machines. DO NOT TAMPER, a crime. Much more to come!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 15, 2020
Trump even retweeted a message from lawyer L. Lin Wood, who has wrongly claimed widespread fraud in Georgia and has had his lawsuits rejected there. Wood suggested that Governor Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger would be jailed for not doing enough to assist Trump in his efforts to overturn the results in Georgia.
“President Trump @realDonaldTrump is a genuinely good man. He does not really like to fire people. I bet he dislikes putting people in jail”, adding that Trump gave Kemp and Raffensperger “every chance to get it right. They refused. They will soon be going to jail.”
President Trump @realDonaldTrump is a genuinely good man. He does not really like to fire people. I bet he dislikes putting people in jail, especially “Republicans.”
— Lin Wood (@LLinWood) December 15, 2020
Most Republicans who have been publicly supporting Trump’s legal challenges, including the more than 120 who signed onto a Texas lawsuit that was dismissed by the US Supreme Court last week, have not reacted yet to the Electoral College vote. Many of them represent districts where the president is extremely popular and they do not want to run the risk of alienating their constituents by publicly breaking with Trump.
This is the situation that McConnell found himself in and almost certainly a key reason for his delay in congratulating Biden. In fact, before congratulating Biden, McConnell spent over eight minutes praising Trump’s presidency and his accomplishments.
“It will take far more than one speech to catalog all the major wins that the Trump administration has helped to deliver for the American people,” McConnell said, adding that Trump and Pence “deserve our thanks and gratitude for their tireless work and their essential roles in all of these victories and in many more.”