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McConnell congratulates Biden on victory, acknowledging him as president-elect

McConnell congratulates Biden and Harris
McConnell congratulates Biden and Harris 00:57

Washington — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell acknowledged Joe Biden as the president-elect for the first time on Tuesday, more than a month after Mr. Biden won the presidential election. McConnell waited until the Electoral College formally voted to elect Mr. Biden on Monday, officially finalizing the election results.

"Our country has, officially, a president-elect and a vice-president elect," McConnell said in a speech on the Senate floor. "I want to congratulate President-elect Joe Biden. The president-elect is no stranger to the Senate. He's devoted himself to public service for many years."

The majority leader also congratulated Senator Kamala Harris on her victory as vice president-elect. 

"Beyond our differences, all Americans can take pride that our nation has a female vice president-elect for the very first time," McConnell said.

But Mr. Trump took to Twitter in the wee hours Wednesday to show his displeasure with McConnell:

Departing for a campaign event in Georgia on Tuesday, Mr. Biden revealed he had a "good conversation with Mitch McConnell today," saying he called the majority leader to thank him for his remarks on the Senate floor. 

In an interview with ABC News, Harris said that while she "applauds" McConnell for talking to Mr. Biden Tuesday, "it would have been better if it were earlier, but it happened, and that's what's most important."  She called the conversation, "critically important."

President Trump has refused to concede, even as dozens of lawsuits brought by his campaign challenging the outcome have failed, and the Supreme Court has twice declined to hear cases seeking to overturn the election results. The president continues to falsely insist that the election was rigged, promoting unfounded claims of voter fraud. More than 100 Republican members of the House endorsed one of the lawsuits rejected by the Supreme Court that sought to overturn the election results in four states.

However, more congressional Republicans have begun acknowledging that Mr. Biden will be inaugurated on January 20. Senate Majority Whip John Thune, the second highest ranking Republican in the Senate, told reporters on Monday that it was time to "move on."

"I understand there are people who feel strongly about the outcome of this election. But in the end at some point you have to face the music. And I think that once the Electoral College settles the issue today, it's time for everybody to move on," Thune said. Mr. Biden received 306 electoral votes to 232 for Mr. Trump.

GOP Senator John Cornyn, a close ally of McConnell, told reporters on Monday that he believed it would be a "bad mistake" for Republican lawmakers to attempt to challenge the election outcome when Congress formally counts and certifies the results next year.

"I think there comes a time when you have to realize that, despite your best efforts you've been unsuccessful, that's sort of the nature of these elections. You got to have a winner. You got to have a loser," Cornyn said.

A wave of Republican lawmakers on Monday acknowledged Mr. Biden's victory. Senator Mike Braun said in a statement that "the Electoral College has cast their votes and selected Joe Biden as the President-elect." Senator Rob Portman similarly said that "the Electoral College vote today makes clear that Joe Biden is now President-Elect." Senator Shelley Moore Capito told reporters that it's "time to turn the page and begin a new administration."

McConnell said in his speech on the Senate floor that he looks forward to "finishing our next 36 days strong with President Trump." Congress must pass an omnibus spending measure before government funding runs out on December 18, and lawmakers are also working on a coronavirus relief package, both of which would need to be signed by Mr. Trump to become law.

Tim Perry contributed to this report.

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