President-elect Joe Biden took a moment to thank Senate Republicans finally acknowledging his victory in the 2020 election after Monday’s meeting of the Electoral College.
“I am pleased, but not surprised, that a number of my former Republican colleagues in the Senate have acknowledged the results of the Electoral College. I thank them. I am convinced we can work together for the good of the nation,” Biden said during remarks to the nation Monday evening after formally receiving 306 Electoral College votes. “That is the duty owed to the people, to our Constitution and to history.”
The sentiment among Senate Republicans was not universal on Monday, but it was clear that many members of the conference saw it as a formal opportunity to publicly recognize reality even as President Donald Trump and his advisers deny it.
Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., who as chairman of the Rules and Administration Committee also oversees the Joint Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, said Trump may still have legal options but the committee is moving forward with preparations to inaugurate a new president.
“With today’s vote, the Electoral College has fulfilled its Constitutional role in determining the president and vice president-elect. While the electoral process moves toward a final conclusion, planning for the Inaugural Ceremonies at the Capitol must continue,” Blunt said in a statement. “I will, as Chairman of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, work with President-elect Biden and his Presidential Inaugural Committee to plan for the swearing-in ceremony on January 20.”
Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham told reporters he had already spoken to Biden and some of his announced intended nominees for posts requiring Senate confirmation.
“It’s a very, very narrow path for the president. I don’t see how he gets there from here,” Graham, a South Carolina Republican, said of Trump and his efforts to overturn the election and the certified vote totals. He praised the announced selection of retired Gen. Lloyd Austin, saying he would support a waiver to let the retired four-star Army general be the Defense secretary despite his recent time in uniform.
He said former Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen “would be fine for Treasury from my point of view,” and he mentioned that he has long known Antony Blinken, the former deputy national security adviser and deputy secretary of State named by Biden as his choice to lead the State Department.
Graham, who has been a strong advocate of Trump, was more specific in addressing his views on the incoming Biden administration than some of his colleagues, but a recurring theme on Capitol Hill on Monday was one of Republicans acknowledging the constitutional role of the meetings of electors.
“In my view, that’s how in this country we decide presidential elections. That’s our Constitution, and I believe in following the Constitution,” Senate Majority Whip John Thune of South Dakota said before Biden officially crossed the threshold of 270 electoral votes as electors met across the country.
There was some remaining hedging, however. That includes from Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C.
“I mean, if you go through the Electoral College, he’s, he’s presumptive president. But then you, but I don’t want to discount valid, legal disputes that’ll be settled over the next couple weeks,” Tillis said.
Asked whether he needed to acknowledge Biden as president-elect, GOP Sen. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the president pro tempore, said he did not need to. “I don’t have to, the Constitution does,” Grassley said.
Biden echoed the Constitution’s sentiment.
“Respecting the will of the people is at the heart of our democracy — even when we find those results hard to accept. But that is the obligation of those who have taken a sworn duty to uphold our Constitution,” Biden said, speaking from Wilmington, Delaware. “Four years ago, as the sitting vice president of the United States, it was my responsibility to announce the tally of the Electoral College votes that elected Donald Trump,” he said.
“I did my job,” Biden said, in what seemed like a nudge of Vice President Mike Pence about his constitutional role in January.
Lindsey McPherson contributed to this report.