Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Senate Republicans dismissed concerns about an extended fight over the presidential election damaging the public’s faith in voting or disrupting the transition process.
With President Donald Trump vowing to press ahead on all fronts to challenge the outcome, McConnell said that until the Electoral College casts its ballots Dec. 14, “anyone who is running for office can exhaust concerns about counting” in appropriate jurisdictions.
“It’s not unusual. It’s not alarming,” McConnell said Tuesday at the Capitol. “At some point here we’ll find out finally who is certified in each state and the Electoral College will determine the winner.”
McConnell spoke a day after Attorney General William Barr authorized Justice Department officials to open inquiries into potential irregularities in the presidential election. Democrats said the move could represent an effort by the Trump administration to use the levers of the federal government to change the results of a U.S. election — something that would be unparalleled in the nation’s modern history.
“The extent to which the Republican Party is legitimizing the president’s assault on our democracy is infuriating and deeply, deeply wrong,” Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said.
All but four Senate Republicans have held back from acknowledging Democrat Joe Biden as president-elect, giving Trump political cover for his challenges and allowing the party to keep its base fired up for a January runoff battle for two Senate seats in Georgia that will determine control of the chamber next year.
Most Republicans haven’t specifically endorsed Trump’s unsubstantiated claims of widespread fraud in voting and the count in states such as Pennsylvania that were crucial to Biden’s victory. And even while Trump questions the results that became clear on Saturday, GOP members have been highlighting how well their candidates did lower on the ballot.
McConnell sidestepped a question about whether he thought there was any fraud in his or other Senate races, saying his contest in Kentucky “wasn’t even close.”
GOP lawmakers dismissed questions from reporters about whether they were concerned that the delay would cause voters to lose faith in the electoral system or fuel conspiracy theories.
For his part, Biden predicted Tuesday that Republicans will swing around. “They will, they will,” Biden said at a news conference when asked how he could be able to work with Republicans if they won’t even acknowledge him as president elect.
Read more: Biden Scoffs At Trump’s Refusal to Concede As An ‘Embarrassment’
Vice President Mike Pence met with GOP senators over lunch Tuesday to outline Trump’s case and encourage Republicans to stand behind the president.
Louisiana GOP Senator John Kennedy said Pence “gave an inventory of the claims and the lawsuits. In my judgment it was impressive.”
Asked whether he thought Trump could overturn the election results, Kennedy said, “That’s why God made judges.”
Several Republicans have said that while Trump has a right to challenge the election outcome, his campaign has yet to offer solid evidence of its allegations of fraud. Barr’s memo to federal prosecutors on Monday said “far-fetched claims should not be a basis for initiating federal inquiries.”
Given the closeness of the election, the president “has the right to appropriate recounts and the right to go to court to resolve any questions about irregularities,” Ohio GOP Senator Rob Portman said in a statement. “At the same time, the Trump campaign has an obligation to come forward with evidence to support any allegations of election fraud.”
Trump’s refusal to concede has also bogged down the legal transition process, denying Biden and his team funding, office space, briefings and access to federal agencies.
Emily W. Murphy, the Trump-appointed administrator of the General Services Administration, has not yet made the determination that Biden is the apparent winner of the presidential election, which would unlock those resources.
Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri, a member of McConnell’s leadership team, rejected the idea that the GSA should let Biden’s transition move forward for the time being. He said George W. Bush didn’t get to begin his transition in the disputed 2000 election “until late in December” of that year.
“If Joe Biden doesn’t know what he’s doing now in a way that lets him move forward with the transition, he would never know what he’s doing,” Blunt said. “They can do everything they need to be doing from the point of view of a transition without the GSA making a determination quicker than the administration thinks they should.”
— With assistance by Tyler Pager, Jordan Fabian, and Jennifer A Dlouhy
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