GOP senators still won’t acknowledge Biden’s win as some begin to recognize reality

“I’m not going to comment on that,” said Sen. Jim Inhofe, a veteran Republican from Oklahoma.

“I don’t have anything for you on that,” said Sen. John Kennedy, a Louisiana Republican.

Tennessee’s GOP Sen. Marsha Blackburn added: “We’re going to be watching it, thanks.”

The comments were the latest sign of how President Donald Trump, even in defeat, holds enormous sway over his party, to the point where many refuse to publicly accept electoral reality or raise any concerns as the President continues to undermine the integrity of US democracy by lying that the election was rigged and stolen from him.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy both have yet to acknowledge Biden’s victory — and McConnell ignored questions about the topic in the Senate on Monday. Others also sidestepped the question.

Pressed multiple times Monday about whether he’d accept Biden as President-elect, Sen. Steve Daines, a Montana Republican, continued to point to how Trump had won his state’s electoral votes.

“Montana cast three electoral votes for President Trump, and the Electoral College voted today,” said Daines, who just won reelection in Montana. “And Congress will need to ratify in January.”

Even so, there were clear signs that some Republicans were ready to publicly accept the result.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham, a close Trump ally who has aligned himself with Trump’s fight since Election Day, acknowledged for the first time Monday that Biden is almost certainly on his way to the White House — even revealing that he and Biden had spoken for about 10 minutes recently and had a “very pleasant” conversation.

“It’s a very, very narrow path for the President,” the South Carolina Republican said. “I don’t see how he gets there from here, given what the Supreme Court did,” referring to the case last week where the court rejected a Trump-backed effort by the state of Texas to invalidate millions of votes across several battleground states.
Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri, a member of Senate GOP leadership who leads the congressional inauguration committee, said they will meet soon to discuss the ceremony to inaugurate Biden on January 20. Just last week, he and other GOP leaders had rejected a Democratic effort to formally note that the committee was preparing for Biden’s inauguration.

“We’ve now gone through the constitutional process and the electors have voted, so there’s a President-elect,” Blunt said. “With Vice President Biden as the President-elect, the President continues, obviously, to have all the options he has available to him, but the electoral vote today was significant.”

Two other members of GOP leadership — Senate Majority Whip John Thune of South Dakota and Sen. John Cornyn of Texas — both said that any effort to overturn the election results on January 6, when a joint of session of Congress meets to count the electoral votes, would be fruitless.

“In the end at some point you have to face the music,” Thune said Monday on his way to McConnell’s office for a leadership meeting. “And I think once the Electoral College settles the issue today, it’s time for everybody to move on.”

Few GOP senators are raising any issues with Trump’s baseless rhetoric about a stolen election.

Congress has the next -- and final -- vote in the 2020 election. Here's how it works

“That’s up to him,” Graham said. “When the courts finally act they will have decided that it wasn’t stolen or rigged from their point of view.”

Sen. Josh Hawley, a Missouri Republican, added about Trump’s rhetoric: “He’s got every right to express his opinion about this, and you know he’s clear about what he thinks, and that hasn’t changed.”

Others are not showing signs of relenting quite yet.

On Wednesday, Wisconsin’s Sen. Ron Johnson plans to hold a hearing to discuss “irregularities” in the elections, where the panel will hear from former Clinton-era prosecutor Ken Starr about alleged voting improprieties. Courts around the country have rejected a flurry of efforts by Trump and his allies to call the results into question, and GOP and Democratic election officials have said there was minimal fraud at the polls.

Asked if he thinks Biden is President-elect after crossing the 270 Electoral College threshold Monday, Johnson said: “It’s certainly walking down that path, isn’t it?” But he defended his decision to hold the hearing, saying there’s “a large percentage of the American population that just don’t view this as a legitimate result for a host of reasons.”

Other senators acknowledged Biden’s win even if they didn’t want to explicitly call him President-elect.

When asked whether he recognized Biden as the President-elect, Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the most senior Senate Republican, said: ” I don’t have to — the Constitution does.”

Grassley said: “I follow the Constitution.”

Sen. Kevin Cramer, a North Dakota Republican who’s an ally of Trump’s, said this when asked if he’d consider Biden “President-elect”: “Well, it seems to me that being elected by the Electoral College is a threshold where a title like that is probably most appropriate and it’s, I suppose you can say official, if there is such a thing as official President-Elect, or anything else-elect.”

CNN’s Ted Barrett contributed to this report.

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