GOP Senate leader McConnell congratulates Joe Biden after the Electoral College vote

United States Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) talks to reporters after the weekly meeting of the Republican Senate in the Mansfield Room in the Capitol Building in Washington, USA, Dec.1, 2020

Tom Williams | Reuters

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell explicitly recognized Joe Biden as president-elect for the first time on Tuesday after weeks of Republican delays in recognizing the 2020 election results.

The Kentucky Republican congratulated the incoming Democratic president after the Electoral College formally certified Biden’s victory on Monday. Numerous GOP senators did not recognize Biden as the election winner for more than a month, because President Donald Trump made unfounded claims that widespread electoral fraud cost him a second term in the White House.

“Our country officially has a president-elect and a vice president,” McConnell said in the Senate on Tuesday.

“The Electoral College has spoken. So today I want to congratulate President-elect Joe Biden,” and Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris, he later continued.

McConnell congratulated Biden after going through a list of what he called “nearly endless” achievements during Trump’s term as president. He pointed to policies including the GOP tax bill of 2017 and “perhaps most importantly” the confirmation of three conservative Supreme Court justices.

After McConnell acknowledged Biden’s victory, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., said Republican officials “must follow Leader McConnell’s lead and now recognize that Joe Biden will be the next president of the United States.”

McConnell’s announcement came hours after a Kremlin statement said Russian President Vladimir Putin had sent a telegram to Biden wishing “the president-elect every success.”

GOP senators, including Susan Collins of Maine and Mitt Romney of Utah, congratulated Biden shortly after it became clear that he would win the presidential election last month. Others, like South Dakota’s Senator John Thune, the No. 2 Republican in the chamber, publicly accepted the reality when the electoral college voted Monday.

Still, some, including GOP Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue from Georgia, refused to accept Biden’s victory. Both lawmakers will try to keep their seats on Jan. 5. Run-offs that will determine whether McConnell and the GOP retain control of the Senate.

If Republicans take up the house, McConnell will have enormous influence on what his former Senate colleague Biden can accomplish in the White House. Biden’s top priorities, including a massive coronavirus relief package, a public health option, and a green energy-focused infrastructure plan, are likely to face GOP resistance.

Trump has vowed never to give in to Biden. He falsely claims to have won the race, spreading a slew of unproven, disproved and baseless conspiracy theories, alleging that he was deprived of re-election through massive electoral and voter fraud.

Trump, in his first tweet after McConnell’s acknowledgment of Biden’s victory, again made allegations of voter fraud without commenting on the Republican Senate leader’s comments.

Even after the Electoral College cast its vote to make Biden’s victory official, Trump continued to bolster his false claims on Twitter.

“Huge problems are being found with voting machines,” he tweeted Tuesday morning, without any evidence. “Able to take a landslide victory and reduce it to a small loss,” he mistakenly tweeted.

Efforts by Trump’s campaign and his allies to reverse Biden’s victory have failed in dozens of lawsuits. The U.S. Supreme Court gave what appeared to be a fatal blow to those efforts on Friday when it declined to hear a long-term bid from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to invalidate the results of four major swing states that voted for Biden.

More than 100 House Republicans, including California House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, supported the Texas lawsuit.

Trump had called Paxton’s far-fetched case “ the big one, ” despite a broad consensus of electoral law experts who predicted its failure to be inevitable.

But neither the devastating loss of the court nor the defeat of the electoral college seem to have dampened the president’s comments, the most inflammatory of which was directed at GOP officials in Georgia. Biden narrowly won the state.

On Tuesday morning, Trump retweeted a message from lawyer Lin Wood predicting that Georgian Republican Governor Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger “will soon go to jail.”

Trump’s promotion of Wood marks a potentially consistent clash with his party in the run-up to the two pivotal final elections in Peach State.

Wood, who along with attorney Sidney Powell has made numerous unsuccessful court bids for alleged electoral fraud, is calling for a boycott of those run-offs. Republican lawmakers fiercely pushed back, accusing Wood of being a Democratic agent trying to squeeze the rise of GOP for Perdue and Loeffler.