McConnell congratulates Biden on White House win

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) congratulated President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris 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.”

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 McCarthy (R-Calif.) nor House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (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.

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 Trump’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.”

McConnell’s remarks immediately drew attention from Democrats.

Sen. Dick Durbin (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.

Tags 2020 presidential election Biden transition Dick Durbin Donald Trump Joe Biden Kevin McCarthy Mitch McConnell Steve Scalise

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