President Donald Trump’s attempt to reject the U.S. election outcome was mostly met by silence from Republican leaders in Congress, hours after Democrat Joe Biden was declared the winner.
In the immediate aftermath of television networks and the Associated Press calling the election for Biden, top party officials in Washington, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other members of his leadership team, had not responded to the results, even as some GOP-aligned outside groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce offered congratulations to the president-elect.
McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, tweeted on Friday that every legal vote must be counted, and that the courts are available to resolve disputes. But his office had no reaction to the race being called when contacted on Saturday.
A handful of GOP representatives in the House vigorously defended the president and questioned the results.
Despite his loss to Biden, Trump continues to exert a tight hold on Republican voters that some in the GOP say will endure past his time in the White House — adding risk to any member of the party who extends an olive branch to the Democratic winner. Many also credit the president with helping to pull vulnerable Republican Senate incumbents to re-election in South Carolina, Iowa and other states.
Now, control of the Senate will be decided by two January runoffs in Georgia, and Republican leaders will be wary of alienating the party base with any quick congratulations for Biden before a concession from Trump.
Some of Trump’s most vocal allies in Congress followed the president’s lead by saying the election hasn’t yet been decided. But most of them didn’t repeat his earlier accusations of widespread fraud.
Missouri Senator Josh Hawley, a potential candidate for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, focused on the media organizations that called the election in Biden’s favor, saying that’s not how the winner will be determined.
“When all lawful votes have been counted, recounts finished, and allegations of fraud addressed, we will know who the winner is,” Hawley tweeted.
Louisiana Representative Steve Scalise, the second-ranking GOP House leader, said on Twitter that there were “serious legal challenges” yet to be resolved.
“The election isn’t over until all legal votes are counted and certified,” Scalise tweeted.
Many Republicans pivoted to the Georgia Senate contests, which will determine whether the GOP can thwart Biden’s agenda on taxes, spending and climate change.
“A Democratic majority in the Senate would cinch the radical agenda of the left,” Texas Senator John Cornyn wrote on Twitter.
A Democratic majority in the Senate would cinch the radical agenda of the left. They must be stopped on January 5th in Georgia. https://t.co/KzRxVU6DwZ
— Senator John Cornyn (@JohnCornyn) November 7, 2020
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Georgia Senator Kelly Loeffler, headed to a runoff against Democrat Raphael Warnock, referred to the seats as the “last line of defense” for Republicans as part of a fundraising appeal on Twitter.
Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, the only Republican to vote to convict Trump and toss him from office in his impeachment trial in January, was the first Senate Republican to congratulate Biden.
Ann and I extend our congratulations to President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. We know both of them as people of good will and admirable character. We pray that God may bless them in the days and years ahead.
— Mitt Romney (@MittRomney) November 7, 2020
Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, a senior Republican who’s retiring, released a statement that seemed to be a warning against Trump disputing the final outcome.
“After counting every valid vote and allowing courts to resolve disputes, it is important to respect and promptly accept the result,” he said. “The orderly transfer or reaffirming of immense power after a presidential election is the most enduring symbol of our democracy.”
In the House, a handful of GOP members chimed in.
Representative Fred Upton of Michigan said on Twitter that it’s time to “bridge divisions.”
“I am raising my hand and committing to working with President-elect Biden and my colleagues on both sides of the aisle in Congress to do exactly that,” Upton said in a tweet.
Republican Representative Tom Reed of New York released a statement that saying that the votes must continue to be “transparently” counted.
“However, out of respect and in deference to the moment, I extend my congratulations to President-elect Biden,” Reed said.
But Trump loyalists in the House contested the media’s calls in the race, even though that sequence of events is typical.
“The mainstream media — on behalf of their Democrat pals — are trying to convince the American people this is already over,” Representative Jody Hice of Georgia said in a tweet. “It’s not.”
Arizona Republican Representative Andy Biggs unleashed a torrent of invective and false claims against Democrats, never-Trump Republicans and the news media and called for the president’s supporters to protest and take every legal avenue to fight. He also suggested a fight over the Electoral College.
“Those who demand grace from Trump supporters as we watch the nation stolen from us, deny the peril from a ravenous beast that will consume our freedoms and chain the American people,” Biggs wrote on Townhall.com. “We must urge legislators to confirm Trump’s electors when there is demonstrable tampering of electoral outcomes by the vote thieves on the Left.”
By contrast, business groups, including the Chamber, the National Association of Manufacturers, and the National Retail Federation, signaled they accepted the outcome and were ready to move ahead.
“Manufacturers trust the democratic process, and the vote counts are clear enough that the networks have confidently projected a winner,” Jay Timmons, chief executive of the manufacturers group, said in a statement. “We pledge to continue our leadership, especially as we race toward a vaccine, and we will work with a Biden–Harris administration, along with the new Congress, to achieve economic recovery and American renewal.” – Bloomberg
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