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Biden congratulated as president-elect by top Republican as inauguration to have 'extremely limited' crowds due to Covid

Mitch McConnell said “the Electoral College has spoken”.

Image: PA

Updated Dec 15th 2020, 7:12 PM

SENATE MAJORITY LEADER Mitch McConnell has congratulated Democrat Joe Biden as president-elect, saying “the Electoral College has spoken”.

The Republican leader’s statement, delivered in a speech on the Senate floor today, ends weeks of silence over Donald Trump’s defeat.

It also comes a day after electors met and officially affirmed Biden’s election win, while people were also urged to avoid travelling for his inauguration next month due to the pandemic.

“I want to congratulate president-elect Joe Biden,” McConnell said.

“Many of us had hoped the presidential election would yield a different result.

“But our system of government has the processes to determine who will be sworn in on January 20. The Electoral College has spoken.”

McConnell described Biden as someone “who has devoted himself to public service for many years”.

He also congratulated vice president-elect Kamala Harris, saying: “All Americans can take pride that our nation has a female vice president-elect for the very first time.”

2.57009625 Mitch McConnell. Source: PA

McConnell prefaced his remarks with sweeping praise for what he characterised as Trump’s “endless” accomplishments during four years in office.

He said Trump and vice-president Mike Pence “deserve our thanks”.

The Senate leader cited Trump’s nomination and ensuing Senate confirmation of three Supreme Court justices, among other accomplishments.

McConnell’s remarks follow a groundswell of leading Republicans who have said for the first time that Biden is the winner of the presidential election, essentially abandoning Trump’s assault on the outcome after the Electoral College certified the vote.

For his part, Trump continued to push his claims of “voter fraud” in a new tweet today.

With states affirming the results, the Republicans faced a pivotal choice – to declare Biden the president-elect, as the tally showed, or keep standing silently by as Trump waged a potentially damaging campaign to overturn the election.

Their turnaround comes nearly six weeks after election day.

Many Republicans rode out the time in silence, enabling Trump to wage an unprecedented challenge to the voting system.

Some have vowed to carry the fight to January 6 when Congress votes to accept or reject the Electoral College results, while others have said Trump’s legal battles should continue towards resolution by inauguration day on January 20.

“It’s a very, very narrow path for the president,” Republican senator Lindsey Graham said.

“But having said that, I think we’ll let those legal challenges play out.”

Inauguration day

With high case numbers of Covid-19 still being reported across the US, the crowd at next month’s inauguration will be far lower than usual.

“Vigorous health and safety protocols” will be in place when Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris take the oath of office at a public ceremony in Washington, the Presidential Inaugural Committee said in a statement.

Biden will “deliver an inaugural address that lays out his vision to beat the virus, build back better, and bring the country together,” the committee said.

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“The ceremony’s footprint will be extremely limited, and the parade that follows will be reimagined,” it said.

The committee said it was “urging the public to refrain from any travel and participate in the inaugural activities from home.”

The pandemic is currently killing record numbers of people in the US and is expected to keep causing havoc through the winter.

That means there will not be the traditionally large crowds on the National Mall and the throng of politicians on the steps of the Capitol.

There is also a crucial question mark over whether the outgoing president, Donald Trump, will attend the ceremony, as is the tradition, symbolising the peaceful transfer of power.

Maju Varghese, the executive director of the inauguration, told The Washington Post that creative ways would be found to transmit the ceremonies to the American people watching on television or online.

“The idea of some of the models you’ve seen through the pandemic — from screens at NBA games or different camera angles to watch events at home — are things our creative team and digital team is thinking about,” Varghese told the Post.

“Rather than thinking about all the things we can’t do, we’re thinking about all the things we can do.”

Varghese said virtual technology would be especially useful in trying to replicate the traditional parade down Pennsylvania Avenue, with video links bringing in people from around the country.

“There are traditions that we really want to hold on to,” Varghese said. “We’re trying to do that with the swearing in.”

With reporting from AFP

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