McConnell put his credentials on the line by asking his Senate colleagues to vote in a joint session of Congress to ratify the election on the 6th. There were no stunts in January that revived the president’s hopes of a last-minute postponement, CNN reported.
So his polite words on Tuesday may not be an indication of how the relationship will develop.
Today I’d like to congratulate President-elect Joe Biden. The President-elect is no stranger to the Senate. He has been dedicated to public service for years, said McConnell, who was elected on June 3. The month of November has finally recognized the reality engraved in marble.
His decision came at a particularly opportune time, after being protected for weeks against the demands of the Democrats and the media to recognize Biden’s legitimate victory. His indifference to pressure only underlines his own strength, the fact that he seems to appreciate it in his own tongue-in-cheek way. And his intransigence, which exacerbated the president’s caustic attack on democracy, gave any hope that a Biden victory would change the attitude of a Republican majority programmed to embarrass Democratic presidents, a slap in the face.
Nevertheless, Mr. McConnell’s remarks on Tuesday were very symbolic, because they effectively ended the trump card era. And his gesture to Biden underlined how he intends to position himself as a counterweight to the new president, an old sparring partner in the Senate he respects.
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But the Kentucky Republican’s decision was not without risk. By neglecting the president, he risks unleashing a long-running feud with Trump, which seems to plan to retire after the 20th Congressional district. January to settle as head of the GOP in exile.
McConnell hopes of retaining his position as Senate Majority Leader depends on two runoff Senate elections in Georgia in January that could affect Trump’s ability to win his base of voters if he is not on the ballot.
But at the same time, McConnell also knows he has to support his argument that the Republican Senate should be a control of the Democratic President and the House, so the GOP voters shouldn’t care what happens.
McConnell’s election change came as his signature furious Democrats on another issue: trying to pass an economic rescue bill that would extend unemployment benefits to millions of unemployed Americans. On Tuesday there were hopeful signs that the reductions could be negotiated before the holidays. Issues such as commercial liability insurance, which McConnell supports, and direct state aid, which he opposes, will remain with the new Congress and the White House.
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McConnell’s action may have given GOP senators who are tired of being asked to congratulate Biden on his cover-up. But unlike some of his colleagues, McConnell, who has just won a six-year term, is safe from the anger of Trump voters who have a new primary on the horizon. Kentucky’s veteran legislature also felt the whip of conservative media commentators whose business model has been deeply invested in Trump’s unsubstantiated claims that the election was stolen and that Biden is an illegitimate president.
But his long history of intrigue in the Senate suggests that his decision was based on a lukewarm assessment of how he could achieve his permanent goal of furthering the interests of his own faction and consolidating his own power.
By waiting so long to embrace Biden as President-elect after the November election, McConnell has probably built up the political capital he needs to stop the clumsy efforts of pro-trump senators to block Biden’s inevitable ascent to the presidency.
The majority leader, a source familiar with the subject, gave his word in the White House before addressing the Senate Tuesday and congratulating the newly elected president. And Mr. McConnell, a man who knows how to praise the president, began his speech describing Trump’s tenure as a period of rare success and congratulating him on keeping his promises on Covid 19, the economy, national security and veteran health care.
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He dry-sweetened the pill he was about to deliver by pointing out that it would take much more than a speech to list all the great victories the trump card government has brought to the American people.
But McConnell kept saying words Trump didn’t want to hear.
There were several million people hoping that the presidential election would produce a different result. But there are processes in our governance system that will determine who will be elected on the 20th. January will be sworn in, McConnell said.
While praising Biden, McConnell also paid tribute to his current colleague, Californian Senator Kamala Harris, who will run alongside the former Senator of Delaware, who has been in office for a long time.
I also congratulate the elected vice president, our colleague from California, Senator Harris. Apart from our differences, all Americans can be proud that our country has chosen a woman as vice president for the first time.
So far, the president has not publicly responded to McConnell’s confession of the inevitable, which many of Trump’s strongest supporters at the head of Parliament have not yet accepted. The White House press secretary, Kayleigh McEnaney, in a briefing clearly intended to attack the media, continued the fiction that there may not be a transition for Trump but a continuation of power.
Prior to McConnell’s statement, some Republicans were unwilling to fully acknowledge that it was over for Trump. Senator Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma refused to comment on Monday’s election commission vote. And North Dakota Senator Kevin Cramer couldn’t get out of his awkward position between assets and reality with an incomprehensible hedge.
When asked if Biden would be elected president, Kramer said yes: Well, it seems to me that the election of the electoral college is probably the threshold at which such a title is most appropriate, and that, I suppose you say officially, if there is an officially elected president or whatever.
But Utah Senator Mitt Romney, who could be a key figure in the new Congress and a possible partner with Biden on some issues that don’t violate his strong conservative beliefs, told CNN’s Dana Bash that the president’s supporters in the Senate now have to approve the election results.
I think Mitch McConnell did exactly what he had to do, Romney. But some of those who identify with strong supporters would really make a difference if they stood up and said: You know what, we need to support the newly elected president. He’s legit. Let’s move on.
Harris offers an olive branch.
Following McConnell’s announcement, elected Vice President Harris gratefully accepted his congratulations – in a way that seemed to open the door to cooperation as Washington prepares for the holiday.
Much will still depend on the races in Georgia, which could give Harris the deciding vote as Senate President in a 50-50 Senate band if both democratic candidates win.
I think it’s very important. I applaud Mitch McConnell for talking to Joe Biden today, Harris said in an interview with Good Morning America on Wednesday.
You know it would have been better sooner, but it happened, and that’s the point. So let’s move forward, let’s move forward, and where we can find a common goal and a common ground, let’s do it. Let’s make that our priority.
Many Democrats who have followed McConnell’s ruthless game of denying President Barack Obama his Supreme Court candidate, Merrick Garland, and who have seen the majority leader ruthlessly fill the courts with conservative justice, think any idea of cooperation that Biden brings forth is imaginative.
But under the Obama administration, then Vice President Biden was often charged with negotiating with McConnell. The Kentucky Republican and Obama did not try to hide their antipathy to each other. McConnell said he respects Biden because he understands the limits of his views and does not try to change his ideology by facilitating compromise.
McConnell also wrote a glamorous article about the elected president in his autobiography The Long Game, in which he mocks Biden’s poor reputation.
As my father would say about the vice president if they met: If you ask him what time it is, he’ll tell you how to make a clock, McConnell said.
If this sense of good humor and willingness to look for limited, bipartisan agreements survives the first months of a new presidency likely to run into total Republican opposition, it will be a miracle.
Manu Raju of CNN contributed to this report.
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