Leading Republicans at Last Begin to Recognize President-Elect Joe Biden's Win Over Donald Trump
Biden, 78, was formally selected as the next president on Monday, when the Electoral College cast their votes in all 50 states and Washington, D.C., affirming the 2020 popular vote last month.
On Tuesday — 38 days after the race was called by the major media outlets and Biden delivered his acceptance speech — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell recognized Biden as the president-elect for the first time.
“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 Jan. 20,” McConnell, 78, said on the Senate floor Tuesday. “The Electoral College has spoken, so today I want to congratulate President-elect Joe Biden.”
Biden said he called McConnell to thank him for his congratulations and told the Republican senator that “although we disagree on a lot of things, there’s things we can work together on,” The New York Times reported.
Monday's Electoral College total was identical to what was projected by media outlets after the polls closed in November, though Trump and his allies insisted for weeks they would somehow overturn the election.
The GOP lawmakers who did not back this evidence-free argument of a "rigged" vote stayed largely silent about Biden's victory, saying Trump had a legal right to contest the results through recounts and lawsuits.
But the Electoral College vote Monday seemingly marked a tipping point.
Like McConnell, South Dakota Sen. John Thune, a member of Republican leadership, acknowledged Biden's win — however faintly.
"As soon as he crosses the 270-vote threshold, I mean there are still a couple of, I guess, last steps in the process. But in my view, that's how in this country we decide presidential elections," Thune told reporters on Monday. "That's our Constitution, and I believe in following the Constitution."
Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the former majority whip, said as much himself, with a similar caveat.
“I think he's president-elect subject to whatever additional litigation is ongoing. I'm not aware of any," Cornyn told reporters. "Obviously, the Texas case was not successful as I believed. But I would say, subject to any other litigation that could occur between now and Jan. 20, the answer yes."
South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, a staunch Trump ally and Biden friend, was more circumspect while conceding "it’s a very, very narrow path for the president."
"I don't see how it gets there from here, given what the Supreme Court did," Graham told the press. "But having said that, I think we'll let those legal challenges play out."
Trump, 74, has still refused to concede the election despite a growing bipartisan call for him to recognize the decision made by the American public last month.
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Tuesday dismissed the Electoral College vote, calling it “one step in the Constitutional process.”
Some Republicans are expected to mount a final fruitless objection on Jan. 6, when Congress gathers to ratify the Electoral College votes.
Without providing proof, the president has continued to make baseless conspiratorial claims that the 2020 election was “stolen” from him via schemes involving voting machines, international ties and various accomplices.
State and federal courts, including the Supreme Court, have rejected the GOP's arguments as Trump's legal team has failed to uncover any widespread fraud or persuade judges or lawmakers to intervene.
Local officials from both parties have said they have not found any widespread wrongdoing and cannot undo the votes — drawing the president's ire in the process.
The criticism of the election led to one outgoing GOP congressman this week to announce he was quitting the Republican Party altogether.
Rep. Paul Mitchell, of Michigan, wrote Monday that Republican refusal to accept last month's election result made him fear of "long-term harm to our democracy" and that he will now officially change his party affiliation to independent in the final weeks of his term. (He said last year he was retiring.)
Sen. Lamar Alexander, a Republican from Tennessee, told CNN on Tuesday that Trump should concede.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican critic of Trump, said Monday night that his legal efforts were “embarrassing” the party.
Last month, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie — a Trump adviser since the 2016 campaign — was just as blunt.
The former governor and ABC News contributor, said last month he believes Trump's legal efforts have been “a national embarrassment.”
"The country is what has to matter the most," Christie, 58, said then. "As much as I'm a strong Republican and I love my party, it's the country that has to come first."