McConnell Recognizes Biden as President-Elect After Holdout
(Bloomberg) -- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell recognized Joe Biden as the winner of the U.S. election the day after the Electoral College confirmed his victory — a pivotal moment that further cements President Donald Trump’s defeat.
“The Electoral College has spoken,” McConnell said on the Senate floor Tuesday. “So today I want to congratulate President-elect Joe Biden.”
McConnell also discouraged Republican senators during a conference call from joining any move to object to the Electoral College outcome when Congress convenes Jan. 6 to formally count the results.
Until Tuesday, McConnell had declined to acknowledge Biden’s win, saying the president was entitled to pursue his claims in court, even as Trump-backed cases were dismissed by numerous judges. The Supreme Court last week turned away an effort to toss out election results in states won by Biden.
Biden told reporters he called McConnell Tuesday to “thank him for the congratulations” and told him there are issues where they can work together.
“We’ve always been straight with one another and we agreed to get together sooner than later and I’m looking forward to working with him,” Biden said.
Yet even as McConnell and other Republicans are acknowledging the election results, Trump still refuses to concede. He continued to tweet unfounded claims of voter fraud in the Nov. 3 election after McConnell spoke.
McConnell later told reporters he had no advice to offer Trump but said the Electoral College vote was “determinative.” A person familiar with a GOP conference call Tuesday also confirmed a Politico report that McConnell urged colleagues not to sign on to a Jan. 6th challenge of the electors, which would force Republicans to take a tough vote.
Republican Senator Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia said GOP senators on the call were encouraged “to accept the results” even if it wasn’t the outcome they wanted and “to try to do what’s best for the American people, which is to look forward.”
She told reporters at the Capitol that “there wasn’t any pushback to it. There wasn’t anybody saying ‘Oh, wait a minute.’”
A Trump ally in the U.S. House, Representative Mo Brooks of Alabama, said he still plans to contest the electoral vote count next month. There is no chance the Democratic-led House would indulge any further attempts to overturn the election results. Even if a senator raises an objection, it’s clear from the comments from McConnell and others it would be doomed to fail.
Senior Republican senators began acknowledging Biden’s victory after the Electoral College voted on Monday, with retiring Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee urging Trump to put the country first and ensure a smooth transition to the incoming Biden administration.
Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri, a member of the GOP leadership, told reporters Tuesday afternoon that the message to senators was less “actively whipping” against contesting the election and more “explaining the futility of the situation.”
McConnell led into his public congratulations to Biden with a lengthy and laudatory recitation of Trump’s record, including “the bold leadership” that resulted in the distribution of a vaccine for the coronavirus faster than most experts had predicted.
He also cited the “once-in-a-generation” overhaul of the tax code, elimination of the individual mandate under Obamacare, increased U.S. energy production and his action on trade.
Working With Biden
After the Electoral College confirmed Biden’s victory on Monday, the president-elect told supporters that seven “mostly senior” Republican senators had called him, “saying they want to work with us.”
He didn’t name any of the lawmakers but predicted that “as Donald Trump’s shadow fades away, you’re going to see an awful lot of change.”
Several other GOP senators publicly recognized Biden’s victory on Monday. John Thune of South Dakota, the No. 2 Senate Republican, told reporters, “It’s time for everybody to move on.”
The No. 2 Senate Democrat, Dick Durbin of Illinois, thanked McConnell for his statement as well as the other Republicans who have now acknowledged Biden’s win. But Durbin said it was “sad and disappointing” for it to take six weeks after the election to do so with democracy under threat.
“I believe we have such a moment here that demands leaders of both parties to carry out their oaths of office and defend our treasured democracy,” Durbin said. “Quite simply, silence is unacceptable.”
Senate Republicans had hesitated to oppose Trump’s false claims about the election results in part because they need his base to show up for Georgia’s two Jan. 5 runoff elections. Those races will determine whether Democrats retake the Senate majority with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris casting tie-breaking votes.
Trump’s efforts to fight the election results have been backed by both Georgia senators, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, who face challenges from Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock.
McConnell’s recognition of Biden’s win comes as Congress and Trump have yet to agree on an omnibus spending package to fund the regular operations of government, as well as more than $900 billion in additional relief for the coronavirus-battered economy.
©2020 Bloomberg L.P.