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6 weeks after election, GOP Senate leader McConnell congratulates Biden on win

‘The Electoral College has spoken,’ says top Republican, distancing himself from Trump’s assault on the outcome of November 3 vote

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, speaks during a news conference following a weekly meeting with the Senate Republican caucus, December 8, 2020 at the Capitol in Washington. (Sarah Silbiger/Pool via AP)
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, speaks during a news conference following a weekly meeting with the Senate Republican caucus, December 8, 2020 at the Capitol in Washington. (Sarah Silbiger/Pool via AP)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell congratulated Democrat Joe Biden as US president-elect on Tuesday, saying the Electoral College “has spoken.”

The Republican leader’s statement, delivered in a speech on the Senate floor, ends weeks of silence over US President Donald Trump’s defeat. It came a day after electors met and officially affirmed Biden’s election win.

“I want to congratulate President-elect Joe Biden,” McConnell said.

“Many of us had hoped the presidential election would yield a different result,” he said. “But our system of government has the processes to determine who will be sworn in on January 20. The Electoral College has spoken.”

McConnell called Biden someone “who has devoted himself to public service for many years.” He also congratulated Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, saying “all Americans can take pride that our nation has a female vice president-elect for the very first time.”

McConnell prefaced his remarks with sweeping praise for what he characterized as Trump’s “endless” accomplishments during four years in office. He said Trump and Vice President Mike Pence “deserve our thanks.”

File: US President Donald Trump (C) speaks to reporters with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) (L), and Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), at the US Capitol on March 26, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Alex Wong/Getty Images/AFP)

The Senate leader cited Trump’s nomination and ensuing Senate confirmation of three Supreme Court justices, among other accomplishments.

McConnell’s remarks follow a groundswell of leading Republicans who said Monday for the first time that Biden is the winner of the presidential election, essentially abandoning Trump’s assault on the outcome after the Electoral College certified the vote.

For his part, Trump continued to push his baseless claims of “voter fraud” in a new tweets on Tuesday.

With states affirming the results, the Republicans faced a pivotal choice — to declare Biden the president-elect, as the tally showed, or keep standing silently by as Trump waged a potentially damaging campaign to overturn the election.

“At some point you have to face the music,” said Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the NO. 2 GOP leader. “Once the Electoral College settles the issue today, it’s time for everybody to move on.”

Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri, the chairman of the inaugural committee, said the panel will now “deal with Vice President Biden as the president-elect.”

Just last week, the Republicans on the inauguration committee had declined to publicly do so. He said Monday’s Electoral College vote “was significant.”

The turnaround comes nearly six weeks after Election Day. Many Republicans rode out the time in silence, enabling Trump to wage an unprecedented challenge to the nation’s cherished system of voting.

Some GOP lawmakers have vowed to carry the fight to January 6 when Congress votes to accept or reject the Electoral College results. Others have said Trump’s legal battles should continue toward resolution by inauguration day.

“It’s a very, very narrow path for the president,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a top Trump ally. “But having said that, I think we’ll let those legal challenges play out.”

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham attends the third day of Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation hearing, on Capitol Hill in Washington, October 14, 2020. (Erin Schaff-Pool/Getty Images/AFP)

Historians and election officials have warned that Trump’s unfounded claims of voter fraud threaten to erode Americans’ faith in the election system, and that lawmakers have a responsibility under the oath of office to defend the Constitution.

Trump is trying to throw out the ballots of thousands of Americans, particularly those who voted by mail, in dozens of lawsuits that have mostly failed. His legal team is claiming irregularities, even though Attorney General William Barr, who abruptly resigned Monday, has said there is no evidence of widespread fraud that would alter the election results. State election officials, including Republicans, have said the election was fair and valid.

In a decisive blow to Trump’s legal efforts, the Supreme Court last week declined to take up two of his cases challenging the election process in key states. Some 120 House Republicans signed on to that failed Texas lawsuit asking the Supreme Court to take up the case seeking to throw out election results in the swing-states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Georgia.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said Monday that it’s as if Biden has to win “again and again and again” before Republicans will accept it.

Overhanging their calculations is the Georgia runoff elections January 5 that will decide control of the Senate. Incumbent GOP senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler need Trump’s support to defend their seats against Democratic challengers Jon Ossoff and Rafael Warnock.

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