In a first, leading Republicans call Biden president-elect

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, speaks during a news conference following a weekly meeting with the Senate Republican caucus, Tuesday, Dec. 8. 2020 at the Capitol in Washington. Americans waiting for Republicans in Congress to acknowledge Joe Biden as the president-elect may have to keep waiting until January as GOP leaders stick with President Donald Trumps litany of legal challenges and unproven claims of fraud. (Sarah Silbiger/Pool via AP)

WASHINGTON – For the first time, a groundswell of leading Republicans said Monday that Democrat Joe Biden is the winner of the presidential election, essentially abandoning President Donald Trump's assault on the outcome after the Electoral College certified the vote.

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 wages a potentially damaging campaign to overturn the election.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., was quiet on the issue Monday. But a number of senators said the time has come.

“At some point you have to face the music,” said Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the second-ranking GOP leader. “Once the Electoral College settles the issue today, it’s time for everybody to move on.”

Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri, the chairman of the inaugural committee, said the panel will now “deal with Vice President Biden as the president-elect.”

Just last week, the Republicans on the inauguration committee had declined to publicly do so. He said Monday’s Electoral College vote “was significant.”

Texas GOP Sen. John Cornyn said barring further legal challenges it appears Biden will be president.

“That’s sort of the nature of these elections. You got to have a winner. You got to have a loser," Cornyn said, adding that once Trump's legal arguments are exhausted, "Joe Biden’s on a path to be president of the United States.”