McConnell warns GOP off Electoral College brawl in Congress

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., removes his face mask as he arrives for a news conference with other Senate Republicans on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020. (Tom Brenner/Pool via AP)

WASHINGTON – Fending off a messy fight that could damage Republicans ahead of Georgia Senate runoffs, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell warned fellow GOP senators on Tuesday not to join President Donald Trump’s extended assault on the Electoral College results.

In public remarks and private warnings, McConnell worked to push ahead to the Biden era and unite a fractured Republican Party ahead of the runoff elections that will determine Senate control.

First, the Republican leader heaped praise on Trump's “endless” accomplishments as he congratulated President-elect Joe Biden during a morning Senate speech. Then he pivoted, privately warning Republican senators away from disputing the Electoral College tally when Congress convenes in a joint session Jan. 6 to confirm the results.

That fight would yield a “terrible vote” for Republicans, McConnell told the senators, according to two people granted anonymity to discuss the call, which was first reported by Politico. They would have to choose whether to back Trump or publicly buck him.

Republicans are worried about bad effects on the Jan. 5 Georgia runoff election, where two incumbent Republican senators, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, face Democratic challengers Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock in a state that flipped in November for Biden.

McConnell has been a strong supporter of most Trump efforts. But the turn of events six weeks after Election Day showed the Kentucky senator, backed by his leadership team, seeking to normalize relations with the coming Biden presidency while avoiding the spectacle of pitched floor fight that would divide the party as Trump reluctantly leaves office.

“I want to congratulate President-elect Joe Biden,” McConnell said as he opened the Senate.

“Many of us had hoped the presidential election would yield a different result,” he said. “But our system of government has the processes to determine who will be sworn in on Jan. 20. The Electoral College has spoken.”