Following a flurry of failed legal challenges and amid continual denial from President Trump, the list of Republican leaders accepting Joe Biden as President-elect is gradually growing.
Perhaps the most significant figure yet—Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky—finally acknowledged Biden’s victory on Tuesday on the Senate floor. “The electoral college has spoken,” he said, referring to the group’s formal confirmation of presidential votes a day earlier. “Today I want to congratulate President-elect Joe Biden.”
McConnell’s admission, among others, suggests Republican leadership is inching away from the Trump campaign’s strategy of challenging election results in the courts—though many have been careful not to entirely rule out any legal possibilities.
“It’s a very, very narrow path for the President,” senator Lindsay Graham of South Carolina—who made calls to state election officials weeks ago—said to reporters on Monday. “I don’t see how it gets there from here, given what the Supreme Court did. But having said that, I think we’ll let those legal challenges play out.”
Said senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina: “He’s presumptive President. But I don’t want to discount valid, legal disputes that’ll be settled over the next couple weeks.”
“We’ll deal with vice president Biden as the President-elect,” said senator Roy Blunt of Missouri. “The President continues obviously to have all the options he has available to him, but the electoral vote today was significant.”
Other Republican figures were more upfront. In the case of retiring Tennessee senator Lamar Alexander, he even urged Trump to outright drop his claims of election fraud.
“The presidential election is over. States have certified the votes. Courts have resolved disputes. The electors have voted. I hope that President Trump will put the country first, take pride in his considerable accomplishments, and help president-elect Biden get off to a good start,” Alexander said. “Especially during this pandemic, an orderly transition of power is crucially important.”
Senator Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia agreed. “It certainly looks [like a Biden victory], and I think it’s time to turn the page and begin a new administration,” Capito told a Capitol Hill reporter.
Any chance of a legal challenge altering the result of the election appeared to go out the window last week when the Supreme Court declined to take up two cases regarding the election process. The Electoral College’s vote all but seals the result for Biden barring an unprecedented reversal.
“At some point you have to face the music,” Senate majority whip John Thune of South Dakota told reporters Monday. “And I think once the Electoral College settles the issue today, it’s time for everybody to move on.”
Despite McConnell’s acknowledgement on the Senate floor, Trump continued to tweet out false claims that he won the Electoral College.
But the result appears so set that even Russian President Vladimir Putin called Biden to congratulate him on the victory, six weeks after numerous world leaders did the same. The Kremlin at the time said it was “correct” to wait for official results to confirm Biden the winner.
“Vladimir Putin wished the President-elect every success and expressed confidence that Russia and the United States, which bear special responsibility for global security and stability, despite their differences can truly contribute to solving many problems and challenges that the world is currently facing,” a Kremlin statement said on Tuesday.
“For my part, I am ready for cooperation and contacts with you,” Putin added.
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