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Senate Republicans are finally acknowledging that Joe Biden won the election

Vladimir Putin beat a number of Senate Republicans in congratulating President-elect Joe Biden on his victory.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell walks back to his office after opening up the Senate on Capitol Hill on December 14, 2020, in Washington, DC.
Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

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.”

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.”

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.

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