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McConnell declines in floor speech to congratulate Biden as president-elect

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellFeinstein to step down as top Democrat on Judiciary Committee Voters want a strong economy and leadership, Democrats should listen On The Money: Biden to nominate Yellen for Treasury secretary | 'COVID cliff' looms | Democrats face pressure to back smaller stimulus MORE (R-Ky.) in a lengthy floor statement Monday declined to congratulate Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden team wants to understand Trump effort to 'hollow out government agencies' Overnight Defense: Trump transgender ban 'inflicts concrete harms,' study says | China objects to US admiral's Taiwan visit Protect our world: How the Biden administration can save lives and economies worldwide MORE or recognize him as the president-elect and instead defended President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden team wants to understand Trump effort to 'hollow out government agencies' Trump's remaking of the judicial system Overnight Defense: Trump transgender ban 'inflicts concrete harms,' study says | China objects to US admiral's Taiwan visit MORE’s legal fight against ballot counts showing him behind in key states.

“Obviously no states have yet certified their election results. We have at least one or two states that are already on track for a recount and I believe the president may have legal challenges underway in at least five states,” McConnell said.

The GOP leader asserted that “in the United States of America, all legal ballots must be counted, any illegal ballots not be counted,” and that the process should be “transparent or observable by all sides” and that the courts would handle disputes, reprising a statement he made on Twitter last week.

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“President Trump is 100-percent within his rights to look into allegations of irregularities and weigh his legal options,” McConnell added, pointing out that Democrats contested the results in Florida, a pivotal state, in the 2000 presidential election, when a landmark Supreme Court decision stopped a recount, handing the presidency to George W. Bush.

“We have the tools and institutions we need to address any concerns. The president has every right to look into allegations and request recounts under the law,” he said.

The GOP leader did not say there had been voter fraud in the election or suggest the election had been stolen from Trump, the claims the president has been making without evidence. 

McConnell argued that media organizations that called the race for Biden on Saturday have no constitutional role to decide the winner.

“The Constitution gives no role in this process to wealthy media corporations. The projections and commentary of the press do not get veto power over the legal rights of any citizen, including the president of the United States,” he said.

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Most GOP senators haven't congratulated Biden, though there have been a handful of exceptions, including Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsWhoopi Goldberg blasts Republicans not speaking against Trump: 'This is an attempted coup' Democrats face increasing pressure to back smaller COVID-19 stimulus Team Trump offering 'fire hose' of conspiracy Kool-Aid for supporters MORE (Maine), whose state voted for Biden.

“I would offer my congratulations to President-elect Biden on his apparent victory – he loves this country, and I wish him every success,” she said in a statement earlier in the day.

She also urged fellow Republicans not to impede Biden’s transition.  

“Presidential transitions are important, and the President-elect and the Vice-President-elect should be given every opportunity to ensure that they are ready to govern on January 20th,” she said.

McConnell stuck a starkly different tone, warning Democrats not to demand Trump’s concession of the presidency until the results were finalized by state officials around the country.

“Let’s not have any lectures, no lectures, about how the president should immediately, cheerfully accept preliminary election results from the same characters who just spent four years refusing to accept the validity of the last election and who insinuated this one would be illegitimate too if they lost again — only if they lost,” he said, referring to Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Third vaccine candidate with 90% efficacy Biden won — so why did Trump's popularity hit its highest point ever? The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Calls mount to start transition as Biden readies Cabinet picks MORE’s statement earlier this year that Biden “should not concede under any circumstances” if he was behind in the initial count.