Biden has call with McConnell after top Senate Republican acknowledges win

WILMINGTON, Del. (Reuters) – U.S. President-elect Joe Biden said on Tuesday he had spoken with Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell and that the two agreed to meet soon, after the lawmaker ended his silence on the results of the presidential election held six weeks ago.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President-elect Joe Biden delivers a televised address to the nation, after the U.S. Electoral College formally confirmed his victory over President Donald Trump in the 2020 U.S. presidential election, from Biden’s transition headquarters at the Queen Theater in Wilmington, Delaware, U.S., December 14, 2020. REUTERS/Mike Segar/File Photo

McConnell congratulated Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris on their victory during remarks on the Senate floor on Tuesday, a day after the Electoral College formalized their Nov. 3 win.

The Senate majority leader was among many congressional Republicans who had refused to acknowledge Biden’s defeat of President Donald Trump, who has continued to make unfounded claims of election fraud and refused to concede.

Biden told reporters he spoke with McConnell before heading to Georgia, where he will campaign later in the day for two Democratic U.S. Senate candidates whose Jan. 5 runoff elections could make or break his domestic policy agenda.

“While we disagree on a lot of things, there are things we can work together on,” Biden told reporters. “We agreed to get together sooner (rather) than later.”

McConnell’s acknowledgment all but assured Congress would not overturn the election results, as demanded by Trump, when the electoral votes are sent to lawmakers to be officially counted on Jan. 6.

Also on Tuesday, Biden was congratulated by Russian President Vladimir Putin, a favorite of Trump’s, and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

Biden and Harris will be sworn in on the steps of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 20 with far fewer people present than is customary due to the raging coronavirus that has killed more than 300,000 people in the United States, the inaugural planning committee said on Tuesday.

Festivities will be largely virtual, and the committee urged members of the public to refrain from traveling to Washington.

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BIDEN HEADS TO POLITICAL BATTLEGROUND GEORGIA

Biden makes his trip to Atlanta nine days after Trump traveled to Georgia in support of the Republican senators seeking re-election.

Biden’s narrow win in Georgia last month underscored the Southern state’s transformation from Republican stronghold to one of the country’s most competitive political battlegrounds. This was illustrated again in state election data showing 168,000 people voted on Monday, a rainy day, compared with 136,000 on Oct. 12, the first day of in-person voting for the presidential election.

Republican Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler are facing Democratic challengers Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, respectively, in twin races that will determine which party will control the U.S. Senate when Biden takes office next month.

If the Republicans win either contest, they would maintain power in the Senate, allowing them to thwart many of Biden’s ambitious legislative goals on issues such as the coronavirus pandemic, the economy and climate change. A Democratic sweep would give Biden’s party control of the White House and both chambers of Congress. Democrats already hold a majority in the House of Representatives.

Trump campaign spokesman Jim Murtaugh said in a statement that Warnock and Ossoff “represent the left-most fringe” of the Democratic Party and that Biden campaigning for them showed he was under the influence of that wing of the party.

As in November, many voters are expected to cast ballots by mail because of the pandemic. Thus far, more than 1.2 million residents have requested absentee ballots and more than 260,000 have already sent them in, according to the U.S. Elections Project at the University of Florida.

Biden said on Tuesday that he planned to get the coronavirus vaccine “sooner than later” and reconfirmed his commitment to take it publicly.

Biden’s win has boosted Democratic hopes of capturing both Senate seats, along with aggressive efforts to register voters and changing demographics that have pushed the electorate away from Republicans.

Hundreds of millions of dollars have poured into the state from both political parties and an array of outside political groups.

Both sides face turnout challenges in the midst of the pandemic and without the polarizing Trump at the top of the ballot to turn out voters from his deeply loyal supporters, as well as from detractors with deep animosity toward him.

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