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McConnell congratulates Biden on White House win

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBiden takes victory lap after Senate passes coronavirus relief package GOP votes in unison against COVID-19 relief bill Senate approves sweeping coronavirus measure in partisan vote MORE (R-Ky.) congratulated President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden to sign executive order aimed at increasing voting access Myanmar military conducts violent night raids Confidence in coronavirus vaccines has grown with majority now saying they want it MORE and Vice President-elect Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisBiden takes victory lap after Senate passes coronavirus relief package It will be Vice (or) President Harris against Gov. DeSantis in 2024 — bet on it Trump sued by Democrat over mob attack on Capitol MORE on Tuesday, marking the first time he has directly acknowledged their victory.

"The Electoral College has spoken, so today 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," McConnell said.

McConnell added that "many of us hoped that the presidential election would yield a different result, but our system of government has processes to determine who will be sworn in on January 20."

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The GOP leader's remarks come a day after the Electoral College officially certified Biden's win and a growing number of Republican senators, including most of the Senate GOP leadership team, acknowledged him as the president-elect. McConnell didn't respond to questions about Biden's status on Monday.

McConnell also gave Harris a shoutout on Tuesday, saying that "Americans can take pride that our nation has a female vice president-elect for the very first time."

While McConnell has now congratulated Biden, neither House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyMcCarthy sits for 'Green Eggs and Ham' reading: I 'still like' Dr. Seuss Chamber of Commerce clarifies stance on lawmakers who voted against election certification Watch live: McCarthy holds press briefing MORE (R-Calif.) nor House Minority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseBiden's COVID, border policies prove he's serious about neither Republican rips GOP lawmakers for voting by proxy from CPAC Merrick Garland is right to prioritize domestic terrorism, but he'll need a bigger boat MORE (R-La.) have acknowledged him as president-elect. 

McConnell and Biden have a decades-long relationship, including cutting deals together during the Obama administration and serving together in the Senate.

Control of the Senate next year will be determined by two runoff elections in Georgia in January. If Republicans keep control of the Senate, they will have the ability to stonewall Biden's nominations and legislative agenda. Even if Democrats win the chamber, he'll still need McConnell's cooperation on most legislation.

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Spokespeople for McConnell declined to comment on Tuesday about if the GOP leader gave the White House a heads up on his speech or if he had spoken with the president-elect. But Biden disclosed on Tuesday afternoon that he had called to thank McConnell for his remarks and that they had a "good conversation."

McConnell had refused for weeks to directly acknowledge Biden as the president-elect.

"This has become a weekly ritual. The Electoral College is going to meet on the 14th and cast a vote and we're going to have a swearing in of the next president on the 20th of January. Why don't we concentrate on what we have to do the next two weeks?" he said when asked last week during a press conference if he considered Biden to be president-elect.

McConnell's congratulations to Biden on Tuesday came at the tail end of a speech in which he touted President TrumpDonald TrumpBiden to sign executive order aimed at increasing voting access Albany Times Union editorial board calls for Cuomo's resignation Advocates warn restrictive voting bills could end Georgia's record turnout MORE's accomplishments.

"I look forward to finishing our next 36 days strong with President Trump," McConnell said. "Our nation needs us to add another bipartisan chapter to this record of achievement."

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McConnell's remarks immediately drew attention from Democrats.

Sen. Dick DurbinDick DurbinSenate approves sweeping coronavirus measure in partisan vote Senate rejects Cruz effort to block stimulus checks for undocumented immigrants Senate inches toward COVID-19 vote after marathon session MORE (D-Ill.) said McConnell's remarks reflected the "reality" of the election and the "finality" that the Electoral College vote has on the election.

"I thank those that have stepped forward to acknowledge the reality of a new president," Durbin said.

Updated at 1:22 p.m.