Six weeks. Six weeks since the 2020 presidential election was called for Joe Biden, Republican senators are beginning to acknowledge that fact.
The Electoral College voted Monday, granting President-elect Biden 306 electoral votes to President Donald Trump’s 232. That development started a trickle that has turned into a flood — Sens. Thom Tillis, Chuck Grassley, Shelley Moore Capito, Roy Blunt, John Cornyn, and Kevin Cramer are among those who have finally accepted what has been true for over a month: that Joe Biden won the November 3 election. This growing chorus from Senate Republicans reflects the finality of the Electoral College vote and the understanding that Trump’s legal challenges to the presidential vote tally have little chance of success.
Monday afternoon, Senate Majority Whip John Thune told reporters: “At some point you have to face the music. And I think once the Electoral College settles the issue today, it’s time for everybody to move on.”
Senate Majority Whip John Thune said that Joe Biden is president-elect once he crosses 270 electoral votes and says efforts to challenge the results in Congress is “not going anywhere.” He said “it’s time for everybody to move on” after today.— Manu Raju (@mkraju) December 14, 2020
As Andrew Prokop has written extensively for Vox, Trump’s attempt to overturn the results of the election have failed time and again, and the Electoral College vote marks an important turning point for Congress:
Trump’s floundering effort to overturn the results of the election has had several focuses. He’s (unsuccessfully) tried to prevent key states Biden won from certifying their results. He’s (unsuccessfully) tried to get judges to step in and prevent certifications. And he’s (unsuccessfully) tried to get Republican state legislators in those states to step in and appoint Trump-supporting electors.
... So the Electoral College vote will also be mainly a formality. But it will be an important one. Because after it, statewide Republican officials and GOP state legislators — the politicians Trump has tried to lobby to overturn the results — will no longer play a role in the process. The action, such as it is, will move on to Congress.
The most significant concession came Tuesday morning from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has until now refused to publicly recognize the results of the presidential election. In a speech on the floor of the Senate, he announced: “Six weeks ago, Americans voted in this year’s general election. The legal and constitutional processes have continued to play out since then. Yesterday, electors met in all 50 states, so as of this morning our country has officially a president-elect and a vice president-elect.”
"Our country has officially a President-elect and a Vice President-elect ... the Electoral College has spoken" -- here's Mitch McConnell on the Senate floor congratulating Joe Biden and Kamala Harris on their victory over Donald Trump pic.twitter.com/LiBP1ULLWV— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) December 15, 2020
In some ways, this flood of acquiescence can be read as an affirmation of democratic norms and processes — despite the Trump campaign and legal team’s best efforts, a court system chock-full of Republican appointees has refused to give credence to spurious attempts to give victory to the sitting president, a theme Biden emphasized in a speech Monday night after the Electoral College vote. But Trump pushed the country’s institutions to a breaking point. His baseless accusations of voter fraud have managed to convince a broad swath of the country that the results were illegitimate and may have set a precedent to allow the loser to push every legal boundary in future closer elections.
The state of this moment can be summed up in one absurd fact: Russia’s authoritarian president, Vladimir Putin, managed to congratulate Biden before the highest-ranking Senate Republican did.