Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell congratulated Democrat Joe Biden Tuesday, calling him the president-elect and saying the Electoral College “has spoken.”
The Republican leader's statement delivered in a speech on the Senate floor ends weeks of silence over President Donald Trump's defeat. It comes after electors met Monday and affirmed Biden's election win.
“Many of us had hoped the presidential election would yield a different result,” McConnell said. "But our system of government has the processes to determine who will be sworn in on Jan. 20. The Electoral College has spoken.”
McConnell prefaced his remarks with praise for Trump's four years in office, saying Trump and Vice President Mike Pence “deserve our thanks.”
The Senate leader cited Trump's nomination and ensuing Senate confirmation of three Supreme Court justices, among other accomplishments.
McConnell is the latest in a line of leading Republicans to acknowldege Biden as the winner of the presidential election.
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 wages a potentially damaging campaign to overturn the election.
McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, had remained quiet on the issue Monday.
But a number of senators said the time has come.
“At some point you have to face the music,” said Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the second-ranking 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.”
Texas GOP Sen. John Cornyn said barring further legal challenges it appears Biden will be president.
“That’s sort of the nature of these elections. You got to have a winner. You got to have a loser," Cornyn said, adding that once Trump's legal arguments are exhausted, "Joe Biden’s on a path to be president of the United States.”
The turnaround comes nearly six weeks after Election Day. Many Republicans have ridden 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 Jan. 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, Jan. 20.
“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.”
Former Senate GOP leader Trent Lott said Monday there is little reason for Trump to continue the fight.
“I don’t see many avenues left for the president to pursue,” Lott said in an interview. "Once the Electoral College has voted, most people are going to recognize Joe Biden as the president-elect."
Former House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican, has also said it's clear that Biden is the winner, stating in a forum last month that, “The election is over, in everybody’s mind except Donald Trump.”
Before Monday, just a handful of current Republican elected officials in Congress had acknowledged Biden as president-elect. Even fewer have reached out to congratulate him.
Among GOP senators, Susan Collins, Mitt Romney and Lisa Murkowski have been most outspoken in declaring Biden the winner.
Others said they were waiting for the Electoral College vote, which is normally a routine step in the elections process but has been amplified by Trump's refusal to concede.
"Although I supported President Trump, the Electoral College vote today makes clear that Joe Biden is now President-Elect,” said Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, in a statement.
“The presidential election is over,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.
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