Senate Majority Leader congratulates the President-elect; Mike Pompeo set to meet Antony Blinken
More than a month after the election, top Republicans finally acknowledged Joe Biden as the next U.S. President, a collapse in GOP resistance to the millions of voters who decisively chose the Democrat. Foreign leaders joined the parade, too, including Russia’s Vladimir Putin.
Speaking on Tuesday from the floor of the U.S. Senate where Mr. Biden spent 36 years of his career, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell congratulated his former colleague as President-elect. The two men spoke later in the day.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, meanwhile, was to meet with his likely successor in the new administration, Antony Blinken. And GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, one of President Donald Trump’s closest allies, said he’d spoken with some of Mr. Biden’s Cabinet picks.
A similar shift unfolded in capitals across the world, where leaders including Mr. Putin and Mexico’s Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador acknowledged Mr. Biden’s win.
The moves came a day after electors nationwide formally cast votes affirming Mr. Biden’s victory in last month’s presidential election. And while that clears a more stable path for Mr. Biden to assume the presidency, it does little to stop Mr. Trump from continuing to try to undermine confidence in the results with baseless allegations that have been rejected by judges across the political spectrum.
As Republicans began discussing a Biden presidency more openly on Tuesday, Mr. Trump still pledged to press forward with almost nonexistent legal oons.
“Tremendous evidence pouring in on voter fraud. There has never been anything like this in our Country!” Mr. Trump said in a tweet, just as members of his party were publicly recognising Mr. Biden’s victory.
The growing acknowledgement of reality in Washington was triggered by the Electoral College formally voting on Monday to seal Mr. Biden’s win with 306 votes to Mr. Trump’s 232, the same margin that Mr. Trump pulled together four years ago. The normally humdrum political ceremony didn’t change the facts of the election but was nonetheless used as political cover by leading Republicans.
“Many of us had hoped the presidential election would yield a different result,” Mr. McConnell said. “But our system of government has the processes to determine who will be sworn in on January 20. The Electoral College has spoken.”
‘Turn the page’
The bureaucratic transition from Mr. Trump’s government to Mr. Biden’s actually began weeks ago, despite the President’s legal challenges. Still, the suddenly conciliatory stance from many Republicans could thaw the political deep freeze that has gripped Washington lately.
Mr. Biden has been trying to build momentum as he prepares to assume the presidency while facing the historic challenge of vaccinating hundreds of millions of Americans against the coronavirus. In some of his most forceful remarks since the election, Mr. Biden is calling for unity but also calling Mr. Trump’s attacks on the voting process “unconscionable” and insisting it is time to “turn the page.’
“We need to work together, give each other a chance, and lower the temperature,” Mr. Biden said in a speech on Monday.
Still, the shift coming so late in the tone from Republicans has left the President-elect with barely a month to finish building out key parts his new government. Some say the GOP about-face won’t mean much at this point.
“Even them doing this now, the damage has been done because they’ve blocked, they’ve interrupted,” said Anthony Robinson, a former Obama administration appointee who served several national security policy roles, including during the transition to the Trump administration in 2016.
“I don’t want to say, ‘Who cares?,’ but it definitely doesn’t symbolise a smooth transition,” said Mr. Robinson, who is now political director of the National Democratic Training Committee, which trains candidates and campaign staffers all over the country.
Mr. Biden’s first priority will be the fair and efficient distribution of vaccines against the virus. The President-elect said on Tuesday that he would follow the advice of Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, who says that getting the President-elect himself vaccinated as soon as possible is a matter of national security.
Trust in the vaccine
“Dr. Fauci recommends I get the vaccine sooner than later. I want to make sure we do it by the numbers,” Mr. Biden said, adding that he’d be immunised publicly, which could help build public trust in the vaccine.
Mr. Trump’s continued opposition to Mr. Biden, meanwhile, may still present roadblocks, especially in the U.S. House where Republicans as recently as last week were introducing legislation to punish members of their party who might be seen as urging Mr. Trump to “concede prematurely.” Other top Trump administration Cabinet officials haven’t yet followed the lead of Mr. Pompeo, who plans to meet on Thursday with Mr. Blinken, Mr. Biden’s Secretary of State nominee.
“The President is still involved in ongoing litigation related to the election,” said White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, calling the Electoral College vote “one step in the constitutional process.”