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Biden joins battle for Senate as top Republican accepts win

  • Published at 05:05 pm December 16th, 2020
US President-elect Joe Biden gestures as he speaks during a campaign rally to support Democratic Senate
US President-elect Joe Biden gestures as he speaks during a campaign rally to support Democratic Senate candidates in Atlanta, Georgia on December 15, 2020 AFP

A Democratic sweep will give the party control of both chambers of Congress as well as the White House

President-elect Joe Biden threw his weight behind the Democratic battle for control of the US Senate on Tuesday, as his White House win was finally acknowledged by top Republicans and holdout foreign leaders.

Biden flew into Georgia -- a southern state he won in an upset against President Donald Trump -- to host a rally for two Democratic candidates in runoff races that will determine the Senate's balance of power.

"Honk for your next United States senators Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock," Biden told the crowd at the drive-in event in Atlanta as he urged voters to turn out in force on January 5.

"Send me these two men, and we will control the Senate!"

One day after the Electoral College affirmed Biden's victory, attention shifted to the looming Senate battle -- and to the shape of the incoming administration, as Biden also announced he had nominated Pete Buttigieg, a former mayor and presidential rival, as secretary of transportation.

Buttigieg would be the first openly gay person confirmed by the Senate to a presidential cabinet post -- in line with Biden's pledge to usher in the most diverse cabinet ever when he takes office on January 20.

And while Trump still refuses to concede -- continuing to tweet baseless allegations of mass fraud that have been rejected in dozens of lawsuits -- top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell finally broke his silence with a message to the president: it's over.

"The Electoral College has spoken. So today I want to congratulate President-elect Joe Biden," McConnell said on the Senate floor, adding Americans can also "take pride" that they will have their first female vice president in Kamala Harris.

Biden told reporters before flying to Georgia that he had a "good" phone conversation with McConnell, a longtime Senate colleague.

"I told him that while we disagree on a lot of things, there are things we can work together on," Biden said.

The Electoral College confirmation triggered an acknowledgement of Biden's win from Russian President Vladimir Putin, who said he was "ready for collaboration" with the Democrat.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and Mexico's Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador -- who had both waited until now to recognize the president-elect -- also sent their congratulations.

'Turn the page'

Trump, in unprecedented fashion, has yet to acknowledge his defeat in the chaotic election that will see him exit the White House after a single four-year term.

In the wake of McConnell's message to the president-elect Tuesday, Trump suggested he would continue to fight the results and aired unproven claims that November's poll was "rigged".

"Too soon to give up," he said in a second tweet. "Republican Party must finally learn to fight. People are angry!"

But Biden urged the divided country to "turn the page" as he welcomed the Electoral College vote on Monday, saying US democracy proved "resilient" against Trump's "abuse of power."

He praised voters for casting ballots in record numbers despite fears of Covid-19 and "enormous political pressure, verbal abuse and even threats of physical violence." 

The White House transition is occurring with the coronavirus pandemic surging, pushing US Covid-19 deaths above 300,000.

While critical winter months lie ahead, a bright spot has emerged with health care workers receiving the first doses of the coronavirus vaccine distributed in the nation.

And with top infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci recommending Biden and Harris quickly take the vaccine, the president-elect said they would receive the shot in public view.

Minds on Georgia

Although the door has all but shut on his efforts to overturn the vote results, Trump has remained defiant.

In a threatening move against Republican leaders in Georgia, where he has made baseless claims of massive voter fraud, he retweeted a pro-Trump lawyer who posted a picture of Georgia's governor and secretary of state, saying "they will soon be going to jail."

Democrats, who control the House of Representatives, must flip both Georgia Senate seats in order to seize control of the upper chamber, while Republicans must hold just one to maintain their majority.

Republicans have framed Georgia as must-win races, with the state forming the last line of defense against what they describe as radical "socialism."

If Republicans do win, McConnell will remain majority leader, and his relationship with Biden will quickly become the most closely watched in Washington.

The pair were known for striking deals during crunch periods when Biden was Barack Obama's vice president.

But McConnell gave Obama no quarter, repeatedly stymying him on judicial nominations and forcing the president to curtail his legislative agenda.

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