Republican senators slowly begin to accept Biden as president-elect after Electoral College vote

WASHINGTON  – Congressional Republicans began the long-awaited pivot to recognize Joe Biden as the president-elect following the Electoral College vote Monday.

"As soon as he crosses the 270-vote threshold (for victory), I mean there are still a couple of, I guess, last steps in the process, but in my view that's how in this country we decide presidential elections, that's our Constitution, and I believe in following the Constitution,” Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., told reporters on Capitol Hill.

“I understand there are people who feel strongly about the outcome of this election, but in the end at some point you have to face the music,” he said. “And I think once the electoral college settles the issue today, it's time for everybody to move on."

Thune’s voice is an important one. He’s the second most powerful Republican in the Senate, behind only Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., speaks during a Senate Transportation subcommittee hybrid hearing on transporting a coronavirus vaccine on Capitol Hill, Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020, in Washington.

He was not the only one who recognized Biden after a weeks-long effort by President Donald Trump and his GOP allies in Congress to baselessly denounce the Nov. 3 election as illegitimate because of unproven claims of widespread voter fraud.

More:Michigan U.S. Rep. Paul Mitchell leaves Republican Party over 'unacceptable' election claims

More:Attorney General William Barr resigns after recent clashes with President Trump; will leave administration Dec. 23

"The Electoral College vote today makes clear that Joe Biden is now President-Elect,” Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said in a statement.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a Trump ally, told reporters "yeah" when asked if he accepted Biden as president-elect. Trump had a "very, very narrow path for the president I don't see how it gets there from here," Graham said.  

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., watches during the Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020.

The willingness to acknowledge Biden's victory comes as all 50 states and the District of Columbia on Monday confirmed Biden's 306-232 margin in the Electoral College.

The vote came three days after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a long-shot lawsuit led by Texas asking the justices to invalidate election decisions in several key states in hopes of overturning Biden's win. More than 100 House Republicans – nearly two-thirds of the GOP conference – publicly supported the lawsuit, though no Republican senators signed on to an amicus brief supporting it.

“Vice President Biden is the president-elect,” Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo, who chairs the congressional committee in charge of inaugural proceedings, told reporters. His committee would work with Biden, he said. 

West Virginia GOP Sen. Shelley Moore Capito was asked if Biden could now be called president-elect.

“It certainly looks that way, and I think it’s time to turn the page and begin a new administration,” she said.

But some remain reluctant to declare Biden the victor.

More:More than 60% of House Republicans support pro-Trump lawsuit overturning election results

Idaho Republican Sen. Mike Crapo told reporters there are still legal and procedural channels that have not been exhausted by Trump.

“I'm just saying you follow each of those processes. ...  I'm asked many, many times 'are you ready to say that all the processes are done?’ Well, no, they’re not done," Crapo said

Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., said Biden was now the "presumptive president" following the Electoral College votes, though he said remaining legal disputes needed to be resolved. 

And McConnell himself made no mention of the Electoral College during his remarks as opened Monday's Senate session.