WASHINGTON – After the Senate’s top Republican congratulated President-elect Joe Biden on Tuesday for winning the Electoral College, some Northwest GOP lawmakers followed suit and acknowledged the Democrat’s victory while President Donald Trump continued to claim the election was rigged.
In statements Tuesday, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Spokane, Central Washington Rep. Dan Newhouse and Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo acknowledged Biden’s win and promised to uphold conservative principles when the Democrat moves into the White House in January.
“I want to thank President Trump for four years of strong leadership for our country,” McMorris Rodgers said. “I also want to congratulate former U.S. Senator and Vice President Joe Biden on his election as President of the United States. While we may disagree, particularly on issues like Medicare for All and the Green New Deal, my goal is to find common ground when possible to get results for people in Eastern Washington.
Biden has made clear he does not support Medicare for All – a proposal favored by his party’s progressive wing that would eliminate private health insurance in favor of a government-run system – instead supporting a so-called “public option” patients could opt into. The president-elect has also said he does not back the Green New Deal, although his campaign website calls the moonshot plan to create jobs and transition to a clean-energy economy “a crucial framework for meeting the climate challenges we face.”
“I will also be committed to holding the Biden administration accountable to protect life and free speech, fight for freedom, and to ensure we renew, rebuild, and restore the American Dream,” McMorris Rodgers continued. “It takes each one of us doing our part to build a more perfect union.”
Speaking on the Senate floor Tuesday morning, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky recognized Biden’s victory at the end of a speech hailing Trump’s accomplishments throughout a tumultuous term in office. The remarks represented the first major crack in a near-united front from congressional Republicans – who with few exceptions have backed legal challenges based on Trump’s repeatedly debunked claims of massive voter fraud – and gave cover to GOP lawmakers who have feared drawing the president’s ire by acknowledging reality.
“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 Jan. 20,” McConnell said. “The Electoral College has spoken, so today I want to congratulate President-elect Joe Biden.”
Biden earned about 81.3 million votes to Trump’s roughly 74.2 million, winning the Electoral College by a vote of 306 to 232 when electors gathered in state capitals around the country Monday to cast their votes in what is normally a low-profile formality weeks after the losing candidate has conceded.
Trump told reporters Nov. 27 he would leave the White House if the Electoral College made Biden’s win official, but Tuesday he continued tweeting claims of voter fraud that have been repeatedly debunked and rejected by courts.
Newhouse said in a statement he would work with the new administration and advocate for the interests of his district, which stretches from Yakima and the Tri-Cities to the Canadian border .
“I am committed to educating the incoming Biden Administration in the coming weeks and throughout the next Congress on the issues and priorities that matter most to the people of Central Washington,” the Sunnyside Republican said. “Ensuring the voices of the 4th District are heard by the federal government, including the President-elect, is of the utmost importance and will be absolutely critical as we cannot afford to backtrack on the significant progress we’ve made over the past four years of the Trump Administration.”
Newhouse went on to cheer the passage in September of two bills he co-sponsored to combat the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women and promise to continue pushing his other priorities, including COVID-19 recovery, cleanup of the Hanford nuclear site and immigration reform for farm workers and “Dreamers,” young people brought into the country illegally as children.
Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, a member of the moderate Problem Solvers Caucus who represents southwest Washington, was a step ahead of her fellow Republicans, releasing a statement Monday night.
“I supported the right of President Trump’s team to challenge the election outcome and to present evidence for their claims of vote fraud in court,” Herrera Beutler said. “They have done so in multiple state courts and in the United States Supreme Court, and while those courts have found some irregularities that should concern the states involved, they have ruled against President Trump’s team in all substantive ways.”
“Now we must look to the future,” she statement continued. “President-Elect Biden has offered to cooperate with members of both parties on solutions to benefit all Americans. I hope he’s sincere, because I will take him up on that offer.”
McMorris Rodgers and Newhouse, along with North Idaho Rep. Russ Fulcher, were among 126 House Republicans who joined a brief supporting a lawsuit asking the Supreme Court to overturn the election results in four states won by Biden. Herrera Beutler was not.
The conservative-majority court unanimously rejected the lawsuit Dec. 11. In his statement, Newhouse echoed the language he used in announcing his support for the last-ditch legal challenge, which reassembled a series of claims already rejected by lower courts.
“As we transition to a new Administration,” Newhouse said, “I still have strong concerns that we could be headed down a slippery slope: If the American people can’t have confidence that our elections are safe, fair, and constitutional, we will not keep our Republic. Congress must continue to work to uphold our Constitution and produce integrity and transparency in our election systems.”
In a terse statement, GOP Sen. Mike Crapo of Idaho also acknowledged Monday’s events and promised to advocate conservative policies when the new Congress convenes in January.
“The Electoral College certified Joe Biden as President-elect,” Crapo said. “In the 117th Congress, I will continue to fight for principles of limited government, protection of the private sector, free market policies and protection of personal freedoms under the Constitution.”
Fulcher and Sen. Jim Risch, both Idaho Republicans, did not respond to questions Tuesday. Risch referred to Biden as the incoming president in a Nov. 16 interview with The Spokesman-Review but continued to support Trump’s legal challenges and told Forbes the election would only be over once the Electoral College voted.
After a handful of House Republicans said they plan to formally object to the Electoral College results when the new Congress convenes Jan. 6, McConnell reportedly warned Senate Republicans not to do the same.
If at least one member of each chamber objects, Republicans would be forced to take an uncomfortable vote for or against Trump’s conspiracy theory-based vote rigging claims. One Democrat on Tuesday called on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to refuse to seat any lawmakers who continue to back Trump’s claims in the new year.
Biden will be sworn in as president at a ceremony outside the Capitol on Jan. 20.
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