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McConnell for the first time recognizes Biden as President-elect

Senate Republicans
Posted at 9:42 AM, Dec 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-15 11:42:28-05

(CNN) — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for the first time acknowledged Joe Biden's victory and referred to him as President-elect, six weeks after Election Day and amid President Donald Trump's continued refusal to accept defeat.

"The electoral college has spoken," McConnell said in remarks from the Senate floor in the US Capitol, adding, "Today I want to congratulate President-elect Joe Biden."

McConnell's comments are significant given that many Senate Republicans still wouldn't recognize Biden's victory on Monday evening even after the Electoral College made the win official.

Democrats have criticized Republicans' refusal to accept the outcome of the Election, and highlighted how it took more than 40 days since Americans went to the polls for many GOP members of Congress to speak up.

"The fact that it took six weeks for my colleagues to recognize reality and stop undermining our Democratic process is sad and disappointing," said Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin in a floor speech Tuesday following McConnell's remarks.

McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, made the comments after praising the Trump presidency in the past tense, touting his administration's accomplishments, including the country's "economic prosperity," "foreign policy," judicial appointments, and "bold regulatory changes" in a floor speech.

"It would take far more than one speech to catalog all the major wins the Trump administration has helped deliver for the American people," he said. "The outsider who swore he would shake up Washington and lead our country to new accomplishments, both at home and abroad proceeded to do exactly that. President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence deserve our thanks and our gratitude for their tireless work and their essential roles in all these victories and in many more."

In his floor remarks, McConnell also congratulated Vice-President elect Kamala Harris for the first time.
"I also want to congratulate the vice president-elect, our colleague from California, Senator Harris," he said. "Beyond our differences, all Americans can take pride that our nation has a female vice president-elect for the very first time."

McConnell said while millions wished the election would have yielded a different result, "our system of government has processes to determine who will be sworn in on January the 20th. The Electoral College has spoken."

Trump, even in defeat, holds enormous sway over his party, to the point where many refuse to publicly accept electoral reality or raise any concerns as the President continues to undermine the integrity of US democracy by lying that the election was rigged and stolen from him. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has yet to acknowledge Biden's victory.

Pressed multiple times Monday about whether he'd accept Biden as President-elect, Sen. Steve Daines, a Montana Republican, continued to point to how Trump had won his state's electoral votes.

"Montana cast three electoral votes for President Trump, and the Electoral College voted today," said Daines, who just won reelection in Montana. "And Congress will need to ratify in January."

Still on Monday evening, following the Electoral College process, some GOP members of Congress were signaling they were more willing to accept Biden's victory.

Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri, a member of Senate GOP leadership who leads the congressional inauguration committee, said they will meet soon to discuss the ceremony to inaugurate Biden on January 20. Just last week, he and other GOP leaders had rejected a Democratic effort to formally note that the committee was preparing for Biden's inauguration.

"We've now gone through the constitutional process and the electors have voted, so there's a President-elect," Blunt said. "With Vice President Biden as the President-elect, the President continues, obviously, to have all the options he has available to him, but the electoral vote today was significant."

Two other members of GOP leadership -- Senate Majority Whip John Thune of South Dakota and Sen. John Cornyn of Texas -- both said that any effort to overturn the election results on January 6, when a joint of session of Congress meets to count the electoral votes, would be fruitless.

    "In the end at some point you have to face the music," Thune said Monday on his way to McConnell's office for a leadership meeting. "And I think once the Electoral College settles the issue today, it's time for everybody to move on."
    CNN's Daniella Diaz and Clare Foran contributed to this report.