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McConnell rebukes effort to overturn Electoral College

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBiden attends first church service as president in DC, stops at local bagel shop Harry Reid 'not particularly optimistic' Biden will push to eliminate filibuster Senators spar over validity of Trump impeachment trial MORE (R-Ky.) warned against supporting efforts to challenge the Electoral College results, the first time he’s spoken publicly against the Trump-endorsed plan by members of his caucus to throw out President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenFive examples of media's sycophancy for Biden on inauguration week Drastic measures for drastic times — caregiver need mobile health apps Boycott sham impeachment MORE’s win.

McConnell’s remarks came at the start of the Senate’s first debate as part of what is expected to be an hours-long effort that will ultimately end in Congress affirming Biden’s win.

McConnell, speaking from the Senate floor, said that the allegations of fraud didn’t reach the standard for challenging the election results and warned of dramatic consequences if the effort were successful.

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“If this election were overturned by mere allegations from the losing side, our democracy would enter a death spiral. We’d never see the whole nation accept the election again,” McConnell said.

“I believe protecting our constitutional order requires respecting the limits of our own power. It would be unfair and wrong to disenfranchise American voters and overrule the courts and states on this extraordinary thin basis. … I will vote to respect the people’s decision and defend our system of government as we know it,” McConnell added.

It’s the strongest rebuke McConnell has given to President TrumpDonald TrumpMore than two-thirds of Americans approve of Biden's coronavirus response: poll Sarah Huckabee Sanders to run for governor Mexico's president tests positive for COVID-19 MORE’s claim that the election was “rigged,” a baseless claim that has been rejected by dozens of court cases and dismissed by election experts.

McConnell had previously urged his caucus against objecting to the Electoral College challenge, but GOP leadership didn’t actively lean on members not to join once it became clear several would.

“I supported the president’s right to use the legal system, dozens of lawsuits. …. But over and over the courts rejected these claims, including all-star judges whom the president himself has nominated," McConnell said.

McConnell added that allegations of fraud during the 2020 election weren’t “anywhere near the massive scale” needed to change the outcome of the election.

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“Nor can public doubt alone justify a radical break when the doubt itself was incited without any evidence,” McConnell said. “The Constitution gives us here in Congress a limited role. We can’t simply declare ourselves a national board of election on steroids.”

At least 14 GOP senators are expected to support efforts to challenge the Electoral College results in at least three states: Arizona, Georgia and Pennsylvania.

Under the rules for counting the Electoral College vote, objections need a majority of both the House and the Senate to be successful — guaranteeing that any challenges to Biden’s victory will fall short.

Trump has publicly called out McConnell and other members of Senate GOP leadership over the election fight, vowing long-term political consequences for any Republican who crosses him even though most congressional Republicans have been largely loyal to Trump for years.

But McConnell noted that the 2020 election wasn't "unusually close" — Biden received 306 Electoral College votes compared to Trump's 232 — and that if Congress overturned the courts and states, "it would damage our republic forever."

"Every four years would be a scramble for power at any cost. The Electoral College, which most of us on this side have been defending for years, would cease to exist," McConnell said.

"We cannot keep drifting apart in two separate tribes with a separate set of facts and separate realities. With nothing in common except our hostility towards each other and mistrust for the few national institutions that we all still share," he added.

--Updated at 2:03 p.m.