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GOP leadership urges Senate Republicans to not protest election results

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell asked Senate Republicans not to object to the election results when Congress convenes on January 6 to count the electoral votes, two sources familiar with the situation told CBS News. 

One source said that on a call with Republican senators, McConnell, Senate Majority Whip John Thune and Senate Republican Conference Vice Chairman Senator Roy Blunt urged them not to object to the election results during the joint session. McConnell said it would be a "terrible vote" for the caucus because opposing an objection to the results would create the appearance of voting against President Trump, the source said.

None of the senators on the call pushed back on the request, Senator Shelley Moore Capito told reporters Tuesday. "There was encouragement on the phone for us to accept the result — as much as it's not what we...would have envisioned for the next four years — and to try to do what's best for American people, which is to look forward," she said.

The joint session, required by law to ratify presidential results, allows "members to object to the returns from any individual state as they are announced," according to the Congressional Research Service (CRS). 

But an objection only carries weight if it's signed by both a member of the House and Senate. "Objections to individual state returns must be made in writing by at least one Member each of the Senate and House of Representatives," according to the CRS. 

If there is such an objection, the joint session would go into recess and the House and Senate would each debate the objection for no more than two hours before voting on whether to accept it. If both agree to to the objection, that state's votes would be discarded from the final count. Since the House is still controlled by a narrow Democratic majority, the possibility that both houses would reject a state's electoral votes is practically nonexistent.

Despite the legal losses the Trump campaign is piling up and the vote of the Electoral College confirming Mr. Trump's shortfall — he won 232 votes, compared to President-elect Joe Biden's 306 — President Trump still claims he won the election. McConnell congratulated Mr. Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris on Tuesday.

"The Electoral College has spoken. So today, I want to congratulate President-elect Joe Biden," McConnell said on the Senate floor, as he ticked off Trump administration accomplishments.

That drew a response from Mr. Trump on Twitter in the wee hours Wednesday:

Aside from the top of the ticket, Republicans fared well, maintaining most Senate seats, and in the House, no incumbent Republican lost a seat. Two critical runoff races in Georgia will determine whether Republicans retain control of the Senate, or whether it's split with Harris having a tie-breaking vote. Both Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden are spending some time campaigning in the Peach State. 

Meanwhile, talks on COVID-19 relief and a government spending measure continue. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin by phone for more than an hour on Tuesday. Mnuchin and the top leaders of the House and Senate from both parties are meeting at 4 p.m.

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