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How Republicans Are Reacting To Biden's Victory

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

When Joe Biden becomes president next month, the most important relationship he will have in Washington could be with Mitch McConnell. At that point, with President Trump out of the White House, McConnell will be the most powerful Republican official. And today for the first time, the Senate majority leader finally acknowledged that Biden won the election. For more on how the Republicans are grappling with Biden's victory, we turn now to NPR national political correspondent Don Gonyea.

Hey, Don.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: Hey. Greetings.

CHANG: Greetings. All right, so let's start by what we heard from McConnell this morning. How exactly did that all play out?

GONYEA: So the Senate opened for business in its very formal, stately way. That's when the majority leader did that thing he didn't do after Biden was first projected the winner or after the votes were certified in state after state. And he didn't do it after the Electoral College vote yesterday, but he did decide this morning was finally time.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MITCH MCCONNELL: Many millions of us had hoped the presidential election would yield a different result, but our system of government has processes to determine who will be sworn in on January the 20. The Electoral College has spoken. So today I want to congratulate President-elect Joe Biden.

GONYEA: And he also congratulated Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. Now, in the past days and weeks, only a few Republicans had been willing to acknowledge Biden's victory. But since the Electoral College voted, that list has grown a bit. Some key names to add to the list are two of the president's staunchest allies in the Senate, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin. Oh, and there's also Iowa's Chuck Grassley. When asked about the election result, he said, it doesn't matter what Chuck Grassley thinks. The Constitution has answered that question for you.

CHANG: (Laughter).

GONYEA: So there it is.

CHANG: OK, there it is. There is a growing group of Republicans in Congress actually acknowledging Biden's victory. But, Don, I mean, how universal would you say that is across the party at this point?

GONYEA: Yeah, it's not. Certainly, a lot of President Trump's supporters, in the House especially, still haven't recognized that Trump lost. Tensions are certainly clear. Senator Mitt Romney, who early on congratulated Biden and who hasn't been afraid to criticize President Trump, was on CNN this afternoon. And you could hear his frustration that so many Republicans have pushed baseless claims of election fraud and not admitted that Biden won.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MITT ROMNEY: Mitch McConnell did exactly what he needs to do. But some of those that are really identified as being strong Trump supporters - they'd make a real difference if they came out and spoke and said, you know what? We've got to get behind this new president-elect. He was legitimately elected. Let's move on.

CHANG: Well, what about conservative media outlets? I mean, we know President Trump watches them very closely. What are they saying?

GONYEA: Yeah. Not surprisingly, when you tune into Newsmax or One America News, you don't hear proclamations that the election is over. You hear a lot about Hunter Biden. But listen to this from Rush Limbaugh this afternoon. He doesn't say Biden won outright, but give a listen.

(SOUNDBITE OF RADIO SHOW, "THE RUSH LIMBAUGH SHOW")

RUSH LIMBAUGH: Do you realize how much of cable news is going to have nothing to talk about now that Trump is gone or allegedly gone? Don't get mad at me here, folks. I'm just saying that without Trump in the White House providing media fodder countless hours per day, they're not going to know what to do.

GONYEA: And, of course, it goes without saying if President Trump had conceded, we would have led with that.

CHANG: Right.

GONYEA: He's still tweeting today false claims about election fraud.

CHANG: That is NPR's Don Gonyea.

Thank you, Don.

GONYEA: A pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.