Mitch McConnell, the Senate’s top Republican, has congratulated Joe Biden on winning the US presidential election, making him the highest-ranking Republican yet to break with Donald Trump, who has refused to concede.
Mr McConnell, the Republican majority leader in the Senate, said on Tuesday that the US “has officially a president-elect and a vice-president elect” following a meeting of the Electoral College on Monday.
“Many of us hoped that the presidential election would yield a different result, but our system of government has processes to determine who will be sworn in on January 20,” added Mr McConnell, the senator from Kentucky.
Since the US election on November 3, most Republican lawmakers hesitated to contradict Mr Trump, who has claimed, without evidence, that the vote was rife with fraud.
But late on Monday, senior Republicans, including Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, John Cornyn of Texas and Chuck Grassley of Iowa, acknowledged Mr Biden was the president-elect after the former vice-president officially received 306 electoral votes, to Mr Trump’s 232.
Under the US constitution, the president and vice-president are officially selected not by the popular vote but by the Electoral College. The system allocates a number of electors equal to a state’s total congressional delegation, which is in turn determined by the census.
Mr Trump has not directly commented on Monday’s Electoral College vote. However, on Tuesday morning he retweeted several messages calling into question the election result, including one supporter saying Mr Trump was the “rightful president and winner” and another saying that Republicans Brian Kemp and Brad Raffensperger in Georgia would “soon be going to jail” for failing to overturn the election result there.
Mr Biden was the first Democratic presidential candidate to win the southern state in almost three decades.
Mr McConnell on Tuesday called Mr Biden, a longtime senator who later served as Barack Obama’s second-in-command, as “no stranger to the Senate”.
Mr McConnell stands to be a thorn in the side of the Biden administration if Democrats are unable to win two Senate run-offs in Georgia next month, which would allow the party to reclaim control of the upper chamber of Congress.
Mr Biden has insisted that he will work across the political aisle to strike compromises, and said late on Monday that he had already spoken with a number of his former Republican colleagues in the Senate.
Monday’s meeting of the Electoral College also prompted congratulations for Mr Biden from several world leaders who had held off on acknowledging the election result, including Vladimir Putin of Russia and Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador.
The Kremlin said on Tuesday a telegram had been sent wishing Mr Biden “the utmost success” and hoping that Moscow and Washington could “really help to solve many problems and challenges that the world is encountering now, despite their differences”.
“For my part I am prepared for interaction and contact with you,” the Kremlin quoted Mr Putin as writing.
Mr López Obrador praised Mr Biden’s more liberal stance on immigration and said he hoped the two leaders could speak soon.
“We are certain that with you as US president, it will be possible to continue applying the basic foreign policy principles enshrined in our constitution, especially non-intervention,” Mr López Obrador said. Mexico’s congress is weighing two bills that critics say could complicate co-operation between the countries on security and finance.
Additional reporting by Jude Webber in Mexico City and Max Seddon in Moscow