Some Republicans Still Have Hard Time Calling Biden 'President-Elect'
The Electoral College met Monday, and Joe Biden formally passed the 270-vote threshold to win the presidency. Yet some Republicans on Capitol Hill are still having a hard time calling the former vice president "President-elect."
Many had been declining for weeks to honor Biden with the title that reflected his election win, saying they would wait for legal challenges to play out and for the Electoral College to declare the winner.
Since that happened, reporters went back to Republican senators who were back on the Hill to ask.
For some, it was still a hard question -- at least to answer out loud.
"This is like the question -- the gotcha question -- of the day," said Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) "I know what the Constitution says," he said, adding that since the Electoral College voted, "That tells us a lot."
Asked if that meant everything was now done in his mind, Barrasso answered only, "I follow the Constitution."
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). a vocal supporter of President Trump and Trump's right to challenge the election results, muttered "Yeah" when asked if Biden was President-elect.
But that didn't mean he was going to call him that.
"You know, I'll call him Joe until he gets to be president," Graham said, chiding reporters for continuing to ask a question Republicans have declined to answer. "It doesn’t matter guys. None of this matters. It only matters to y’all. What matters is that we get a president sworn in Jan. 20."
Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) was willing to give Biden the win and the title, but also questioned whether it mattered, downplaying the unease and even anger that many Biden supporters and Trump opponents have felt watching Republicans remain silent as Trump sought to subvert the election since he lost.
"It seems to me that being elected by the Electoral College is a threshold where a title like that is probably most appropriate, and it's, I suppose you can say official, if there is such a thing as official President-elect, or anything else-elect," Cramer said.
He also seemed to suggest there was still at least a slim chance legal action could keep Trump in office.
"There's an inauguration that will swear somebody in, and that person will be the president of the United States," Cramer said, as if that possibly might not be Biden. "But whether you call it that or not, you know, there are legal challenges that are ongoing -- not very many, probably not a remedy that would change the outcome -- but, so, I don't -- again I don't know how a politician refers to another politician, but it does look to me like the big race is really between the inaugural committee and the Justice Department at this point."
Famously cranky Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), got cranky when asked if it was time to acknowledge the president-elect as the "President-elect."
"I don’t have to – the Constitution does that," Grassley said.
Pressed on whether Grassley does in fact acknowledge the Constitution says Biden is president-elect, he shot back as Barrasso did, "I follow the Constitution." He kept walking when asked if that was a "Yes."
Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) preferred to repeat that Iowa did not go for Biden.
"I'm just really excited Iowa voted for President Trump," Ernst said. "Like it or not, I know for Iowans it's disappointing. But the process is what it is, and the Constitution will be followed."
Asked if that means that Biden is the president-elect, Ernst said, "If that's what the Electoral College decides."
Some Republicans were more willing to recognize Biden as the soon-to-be commander-in-chief.
“It certainly looks that way, and I think it's time to turn the page and begin a new administration,” said West Virginia Republican Sen. Shelley Moore Capito.
Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), who has generally been dubious of Trump's prospects in the courts but has nevertheless been willing to entertain them, was clear in saying once the 270 threshold is passed, the person is president-elect.
But he still was not willing to wave some of his more vehement pro-Trump colleagues off challenging the tally when it must be declared in Congress on Jan. 6.
"It’s their prerogative. It’s allowed for in the Constitution. But it’s not going anywhere," Thune told reporters, casting it not as a potential crisis in confidence for the new administration, but as a harmless chance for the disappointed to blow off steam.
"It’s an opportunity for people to vent and protest, but in the end we have a clear way of determining our president," Thune said. "Those steps have been adhered to, they’ve been followed, and the House can choose to do that [challenge the results] but it’s not going anywhere."
The same goes for anyone in the Senate who wants to challenge the certification of the winner.
"I can’t tell them what to do, and I understand there are people who feel strongly about the outcome of this election, but in the end, at some point, you have to face the music," Thune said. "And I think that once the Electoral College settles the issue today that it’s time for everybody to move on."