Trump’s tweet made it clear that McConnell’s decision to recognize Biden as president-elect has opened a rift at the top of the GOP, with the president continuing to falsely claim victory while McConnell works behind the scenes to persuade Republican senators not to challenge the electoral college, which cast 306 votes for Biden on Monday, formalizing his victory.
Before Tuesday, McConnell was among a majority of GOP lawmakers in both chambers who had declined for weeks to acknowledge Biden as the incoming president. But in a speech on the Senate floor Tuesday, he said he accepts the electoral college results.
“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 20. The electoral college has spoken,” McConnell said. “So today, I want to congratulate President-elect Joe Biden. The president-elect is no stranger to the Senate. He’s devoted himself to public service for many years.”
The Senate majority leader’s speech sets up a potential fight for control of a Republican Party that Trump has reshaped. The GOP is now faced with its two most influential leaders holding “completely irreconcilable” positions of reality ahead of two critical Senate runoff races in Georgia to decide control of the chamber, The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake wrote in an analysis.
McConnell and other GOP leaders on Tuesday also urged Senate Republicans in a conference call not to join a long-shot effort led by House conservatives to challenge the electoral college results when Congress tabulates the vote on Jan. 6, The Washington Post’s Seung Min Kim and Rachael Bade reported.
Among the Republican lawmakers to join McConnell on Tuesday in accepting the electoral college’s results was Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.). “I think as hard as the losses are to take, at the end of the day, you have to accept what the people’s voices told you,” she said.
On Twitter, Trump pleaded with McConnell and other Republicans to reconsider. Amid another barrage of early-morning tweets promoting the same unfounded claims of election fraud that have been defeated in his campaign’s legal challenges, the president falsely claimed that he did better than voting projections in swing states he lost, “but bad things happened.”
Some of the president’s allies also lashed out at the Senate’s top Republican on Tuesday, with Trump-aligned attorney L. Lin Wood calling him “a traitor to American Patriots.”
“His day of judgment is coming,” Wood tweeted.
Fox News host Mark Levin, meanwhile, called for McConnell to retire. While not naming McConnell, Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Georgia representative-elect and QAnon conspiracy theory supporter, said that Republicans who don’t continue to contest the election results are supporting “the Chinese Communist Party takeover of America.”
Charlie Kirk, founder of the conservative youth organization Turning Point USA, said: “You typically don’t use the term ‘congratulations’ when someone just stole a bank.”
Trump appeared to note the smattering of support, retweeting an article early Wednesday titled, “Trump allies slam Mitch McConnell for congratulating Biden.”