Mitch McConnell congratulates Joe Biden on US election victory

Senate leader and senior Republicans break with Trump after electoral college confirms result

Senior Republicans recognised Joe Biden as the president-elect of the United States on Tuesday as President Donald Trump continued to deny the outcome of the election.

In a significant break with the president, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell congratulated Mr Biden and vice-president-elect Kamala Harris on their victory, a day after the electoral college confirmed the election result.

“As of this morning our country has officially a president-elect and a vice-president-elect,” Mr McConnell said on the Senate floor. “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 20th. The electoral college has spoken. Today I want to congratulate president-elect Joe Biden.”

Mr McConnell also congratulated Ms Harris, a colleague in the Senate. “Beyond our differences, Americans can take pride that our nation has a female vice president-elect for the very first time,” he said.


Mr Biden phoned the majority leader to thank him, he confirmed afterwards, describing it as a “good conversation”.

Though much of his speech praised the achievements of the Trump presidency, including Republicans’ success in confirming hundreds of conservative judges to federal courts, Mr McConnell’s definitive recognition of the election outcome is a blow to Mr Trump’s efforts to change the result.

Minutes after Mr McConnell spoke, Mr Trump indicated that he was showing no signs of conceding to Mr Biden however, tweeting: “Tremendous evidence pouring in on voter fraud. There has never been anything like this in our Country!”

Mr McConnell’s statement followed an acknowledgement by several senior Republicans that Mr Biden had won the election.

On Monday, Mr Biden passed a key procedural hurdle in his path to the White House, when state electors across the country voted to confirm him as president. The development, though typically a procedural formality, prompted several Republican senators to break with the president.

Senator Lindsey Graham, a close ally of Mr Trump, said that Mr Biden was the president-elect, and confirmed that he had spoken to Mr Biden by phone. Others such as Chuck Grassley and John Thune also said that the election was now over.

The move by Senate Republicans to acknowledge Mr Biden’s victory is a belated recognition of a political reality ever since Mr Biden won the required number of electoral college votes more than five weeks ago.

Russian president Vladimir Putin also congratulated the US president-elect, weeks after most other countries had done so.

House Republicans – more than a hundred of whom supported an ill-fated lawsuit brought by Texas to the supreme court seeking to overturn the result in four other states – have been less willing to acknowledge the election result.

Mr Trump, however, seemed as defiant as ever, tweeting unfounded conspiracy theories about election fraud several times on Tuesday. He also tweeted a Breitbart News article about Alabama congressman Mo Brooks, who has suggested he could question the electoral college vote when it comes to Congress for ratification on January 6th.

Addressing the nation on Monday night, after the electoral college declared he had won the election with 306 electoral college votes, Mr Biden said that “once again in America, the rule of law, our constitution, and the will of the people have prevailed”.

“Our democracy – pushed, tested, threatened – proved to be resilient, true and strong.”

He said that recent threats to election workers were “unconscionable”. He also hit out at Mr Trump’s efforts to overturn the election result, noting that the president himself also won the 2016 election with 306 electoral votes. “By his own standards, these numbers represented a clear victory then – and I respectfully suggest they do so now.”

Mr Biden travelled to Georgia on Tuesday to campaign for the two Democratic candidates running in a pair of run-off elections in the state on January 5th. Should both win, Democrats will control 50 seats in the 100-seat chamber, with vice-president Kamala Harris holding a tie-breaking vote.

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch, a former Irish Times journalist, was Washington correspondent and, before that, Europe correspondent