WASHINGTON – Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., recognized former Vice President Joe Biden as the president-elect for the first time Tuesday, one day after the Democratic ticket sealed an Electoral College victory.
“The Electoral College has spoken,” McConnell said during a speech on the Senate floor in which he also praised President Donald Trump's accomplishments. McConnell said he wanted to “congratulate President-elect Joe Biden” and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.
"The President-elect is no stranger to the Senate. He has devoted himself to public service for many years," McConnell said of Biden.
Noting Harris’ historic win as the first female vice president, McConnell said, “beyond our differences, all Americans can take pride that our nation has a female vice president for the very first time.”
For weeks, McConnell had declined to acknowledge Biden's victory and had said Trump had the right to litigate the results, though McConnell had promised an "orderly transfer" between administrations. Courts have rejected most of the Trump campaign's court challenges seeking to overturn Biden's win.
Trump has not formally conceded the election. Biden in a Monday night speech reaffirmed his victory and denounced Trump's baseless claims of fraud, saying it was "time to turn the page as we’ve done throughout our history."
Speaking after McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said other Republicans "ought to follow McConnell's lead" and recognize Biden's win.
Biden said Tuesday he spoke with McConnell and thanked him for his floor remarks.
The president-elect, who is traveling to Georgia to campaign for Democratic Senate candidates, said he had a “good conversation with Mitch McConnell today.”
Biden, who told reporters he was calling "about a dozen" other lawmakers, said he told McConnell that, though they disagreed on many issues, he hoped they could find common ground.
"We agreed to get together sooner than later. And I'm looking forward to working with him," he said.
Republican lawmakers slowly started to accept Biden as president-elect after Monday’s Electoral College vote again certifying Biden's victory, though some lawmakers said they wanted to wait for the end of litigation and for Congress to certify the Electoral College results on Jan. 6. A group of House Republicans led by Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., has said they plan to challenge the results in an effort unlikely to change the outcome.
Senate Republicans likely will not join in their effort.
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.V., told reporters on Capitol Hill Senate Republican leadership had encouraged members during a Tuesday conference call "to accept the result as much as it's not what we...would have envisioned for the next four years and to try to do what's best for the American people. "
She said there was not any pushback from other senators on the call.
Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., a member of Senate Republican leadership, told reporters Tuesday he did not know of any Republican senators willing to join the House lawmakers' effort.
The second-ranking Senate Republican, John Thune of South Dakota, said Monday "once the Electoral College settles the issue today, it's time for everybody to move on."
And the Republican senator in charge of the committee planning the inauguration, Roy Blunt of Missouri, told reporters Biden was the president-elect and that his committee would work with the incoming president.
Some Republican senators addressed Biden's win with a caveat. Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., said Biden was now the "presumptive president" following the Electoral College votes, but he said remaining legal disputes needed to be resolved.
Contributing: Bart Jansen
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Mitch McConnell congratulates Joe Biden, Kamala Harris for election