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 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 Biden's Cabinet picks.
A similar shift unfolded in capitals across the world, where leaders including Russia's Putin and Mexico's Andrés Manuel López Obrador acknowledged Biden's win. The moves came a day after electors nationwide formally cast votes affirming Biden's victory in last month's presidential election. And while that clears a more stable path for Biden to assume the presidency, it does little to stop 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, Trump still pledged to press forward with almost nonexistent legal options. "Tremendous evidence pouring in on voter fraud. There has never been anything like this in our Country!” Trump tweeted just as members of his party were publicly recognizing Biden's victory.
The growing acknowledgment of reality in Washington was triggered by the Electoral College formally voting on Monday to seal Biden's win with 306 votes to Trump's 232, the same margin that 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," McConnell said. "But our system of government has the processes to determine who will be sworn in on Jan. 20. The Electoral College has spoken.”
The bureaucratic transition from Trump's government to 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. 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, Biden is calling for unity but also calling Trump's attacks on the voting process "unconscionable” and insisting it is time to "turn the page.'
Trump's continued opposition to 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 Trump to "concede prematurely." Other top Trump administration Cabinet officials haven't yet followed the lead of Pompeo, who plans to meet Thursday with Blinken, Biden's secretary of state nominee.