Six weeks to the day after Election Day, and more than five weeks after most media outlets declared President-elect Joe Biden the winner of the 2020 presidential race, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) finally acknowledged Biden as the clear victor over President Donald Trump.
During those past several weeks, McConnell, a Trump loyalist, had refused to recognize that Biden had defeated the incumbent president, who continues to assert, without proof, that election fraud had played a significant role in Biden’s winning the election.
But one day following the Electoral College vote count, which affirmed Biden had received 306 votes to Trump’s 232, McConnell acquiesced to recognizing the Democratic candidate’s win.
“The Electoral College has spoken. So today, I want to congratulate President-elect Joe Biden,” McConnell said in a statement on Tuesday.
After those remarks, Biden told reporters that he called McConnell to express his gratitude for acknowledging his win. “We’ve always been straight with one another and we agreed we’d get together sooner than later,” Biden said.
On top of McConnell sending his congratulatory remarks to Biden, he has also reportedly told his GOP colleagues in the Senate not to back any remaining attempts to deny the presidency to the president-elect. During a conference call among Republican senators, McConnell pleaded with them not to back a plan by some Republicans in the House to contest the outcome of the Electoral College when Congress meets to certify the results on January 6.
While McConnell said he wouldn’t try to stop anyone from joining that attempt, he made clear that doing so would be an embarrassing moment for Senate Republicans. It also would not accomplish much of anything, he reminded them, as the challenge would be blocked by the Democratic-controlled House.
Trump seems to be supportive of the effort by those few Republicans, however, to object to certifying the Electoral College results, as he tweeted an article on Tuesday detailing Rep. Mo Brooks’s (R-Alabama) plans to do so.
Brooks, in the article the president shared on social media, errantly claimed that Trump actually won the Electoral College “if we only counted lawful votes cast by eligible American citizens.” The assertions made by Brooks that suggest the election was rife with fraud, similar to all other claims made by Trump and his allies, have no basis in truth whatsoever and have been refuted by election officials, the media and Trump’s own Justice Department.
Although McConnell is lobbying his Republican colleagues not to contest the Electoral College outcome, and in spite of the niceties he and Biden shared on Tuesday, McConnell is set to be an oppositional force to the new administration more than an ally. Indeed, sources close to the Kentucky Republican, speaking confidentially to Axios last month, indicated that the current Senate Majority Leader intends to block any non-centrist candidates to cabinet positions Biden intends to nominate to serve in his administration. He will likely also attempt to block many of the legislative policies Biden and the Democrats will attempt to pass in the next term.
McConnell’s role as Senate Majority Leader, however, is not a foregone conclusion at this time. Two Senate runoff elections in Georgia early next month may result in Democrats taking control of the “upper chamber,” if Democratic candidates in those races, Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, win against incumbent Republican Senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, respectively.