Joe Biden congratulated as president-elect by Republican leader

Senate McConnell

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has congratulated Democrat Joe Biden as president-elect, saying "the Electoral College has spoken".

The Republican leader's statement, delivered in a speech on the Senate floor on Tuesday, ends weeks of silence over Donald Trump's defeat.

It also comes a day after electors met and officially affirmed Mr Biden's election win.

Senate McConnell
Mitch McConnell congratulated Joe Biden and vice president-elect Kamala Harris (Kevin Dietsch/Pool/AP)

"I want to congratulate president-elect Joe Biden," Mr McConnell said.

"Many of us had hoped the presidential election would yield a different result.

"But our system of government has the processes to determine who will be sworn in on January 20. The Electoral College has spoken."

Mr McConnell described Mr Biden as someone "who has devoted himself to public service for many years".

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President Trump in the days since the Nov. 3 election
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President Trump in the days since the Nov. 3 election
US President Donald Trump arrives for a wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on Veterans Day at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, on November 11, 2020. - US President Donald Trump made his first official post-election appearance Wednesday for what should be a moment of national unity to mark Veteran's Day, now marred by his refusal to acknowledge Joe Biden's win. The president visited Arlington National Cemetery, four days after US media projected his Democratic rival would take the White House. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump attends a "National Day of Observance" wreath laying ceremony on November 11, 2020 at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia. - US President Donald Trump made his first official post-election appearance Wednesday for what should be a moment of national unity to mark Veteran's Day, now marred by his refusal to acknowledge Joe Biden's win. The president visited Arlington National Cemetery, four days after US media projected his Democratic rival would take the White House. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
President Donald Trump gives two thumbs up to supporters as he departs after playing golf at the Trump National Golf Club in Sterling Va., Sunday Nov. 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
President Donald Trump salutes as he participates in a Veterans Day wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2020. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
President Donald Trump plays a round of Golf at the Trump National Golf Club in Sterling Va., Sunday Nov. 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
President Donald Trump speaks at the White House, Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump waves to supporters as he departs after playing golf at the Trump National Golf Club in Sterling Va., Sunday Nov. 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
President Donald Trump speaks at the White House, Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump arrives at the White House after golfing Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump walks away after speaking at the White House, Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump, center standing, as he participates in a round of golf at the Trump National Golf Course on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020, in Sterling, Va. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
President Donald Trump leaves the podium after speaking at the White House, Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump participates in a round of golf at the Trump National Golf Course on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020, in Sterling, Va. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
President Donald Trump speaks in the East Room of the White House, early Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
STERLING, VA - NOVEMBER 07: U.S. President Donald Trump golfs at Trump National Golf Club, on November 7, 2020 in Sterling, Virginia. News outlets projected that Democratic nominee Joe Biden will be the 46th president of the United States after a victory in Pennsylvania. (Photo by Al Drago/Getty Images)
President Donald Trump walks away after speaking at the White House, Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump speaks at the White House, Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump plays a round of Golf at the Trump National Golf Club in Sterling Va., Sunday Nov. 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
President Donald Trump speaks at the White House, Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump speaks in the East Room of the White House, early Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
US President Donald Trump watches from the motorcade as he returns to the White House in Washington, DC, after playing golf on November 7, 2020. - Joyous celebrations erupted in Washington on Saturday after Joe Biden was declared winner of the US presidency, as several people poured into the streets of the US capital -- some of them chanting, cheering and singing in front of the White House. (Photo by ALEX EDELMAN / AFP) (Photo by ALEX EDELMAN/AFP via Getty Images)
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He also congratulated vice president-elect Kamala Harris, saying "all Americans can take pride that our nation has a female vice president-elect for the very first time".

Mr McConnell prefaced his remarks with sweeping praise for what he characterised as Mr Trump's "endless" accomplishments during four years in office.

He said Mr Trump and vice-president Mike Pence "deserve our thanks".

The Senate leader cited Mr Trump's nomination and ensuing Senate confirmation of three Supreme Court justices, among other accomplishments.

Mr McConnell's remarks follow a groundswell of leading Republicans who have said for the first time that Mr Biden is the winner of the presidential election, essentially abandoning Mr Trump's assault on the outcome after the Electoral College certified the vote.

For his part, Mr Trump continued to push his claims of "voter fraud" in a new tweet on Tuesday.

With states affirming the results, the Republicans faced a pivotal choice – to declare Mr Biden the president-elect, as the tally showed, or keep standing silently by as Mr Trump waged a potentially damaging campaign to overturn the election.

Their turnaround comes nearly six weeks after election day.

Many Republicans rode out the time in silence, enabling Mr Trump to wage an unprecedented challenge to the voting system.

Some have vowed to carry the fight to January 6 when Congress votes to accept or reject the Electoral College results, while others have said Mr Trump's legal battles should continue towards resolution by inauguration day on January 20.

"It's a very, very narrow path for the president," Republican senator Lindsey Graham said.

"But having said that, I think we'll let those legal challenges play out."

Earlier on Tuesday, Russian president Vladimir Putin also congratulated Mr Biden after weeks of holding out.

The Kremlin had previously said the Russian president would hold off on congratulating Mr Biden until the winner was officially confirmed.

In his message, Mr Putin wished Mr Biden "every success", according to a Kremlin statement.

He expressed confidence "Russia and the US, which bear special responsibility for global security and stability can, despite the differences, really contribute to solving many problems and challenges that the world is currently facing".

The Russian president noted "the Russian-American co-operation based on the principles of equality and mutual respect would meet the interests of the people in both countries and the entire international community".

He added: "For my part, I am ready for interaction and contact with you."

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