BY: ADAM KELSEY, ABC NEWS
(WASHINGTON) — A pair of senators who may find themselves at the center of the presidential transition process offered their outlook Sunday on the coming weeks, with both a peaceful transfer of power and progress on pandemic relief legislation at the top of the agenda.
Republican Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., acknowledged a reality that several of his party colleagues have been reluctant to accept, that President Donald Trump’s effort to expose unsubstantiated voter fraud and alter the outcome of the election is not expected to succeed.
“It’s time for the president’s lawyers to present the facts and then it’s time for those facts to speak for themselves,” Blunt said on ABC’s “This Week.”
He said there are always some changes after an election, but it “seems unlikely that any changes could be big enough to make a difference.”
ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos, noting Biden’s growing margins in several contested battleground states, challenged Blunt — who will chair the forthcoming inauguration no matter the winner — on why he wasn’t being more clear about the election outcome earlier in the interview.
“You’re a former (state) secretary of state. I spoke with secretaries of state, Democrat and Republican state officials over the last several days, they said they’ve seen no widespread evidence of any kind of fraud at all,” Stephanopoulos said. “Joe Biden has won this election. Why can’t you acknowledge it?”
“This is a close election and we need to acknowledge that,” Blunt responded, in part, after earlier referring to the states’ official canvassing procedures. “It’s a process. There’s a process here that we need to go through. I think both Vice President Biden and President Trump benefit from that process.”
Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., who occupies Biden’s old Senate seat, agreed that substantial evidence of wrongdoing — absent from Trump’s and his supporters’ claims thus far — needs to be exposed, but that otherwise, the transition should continue.
“If Republicans are going to support President Trump and his resistance to accepting the outcome of the election, the president needs to show some facts, not just angry tweets,” Coons said in a separate interview on “This Week.”
The senator is a close ally of the president-elect who is rumored to be under consideration for a cabinet role. On Sunday, he noted he was re-elected to his Senate seat Tuesday but would be “honored to serve,” if asked to take on a role, such as secretary of state.
As for his work in Congress and the current occupant of the White House, Coons argued that beyond accepting the outcome of the race, Trump could ease the transition by facilitating coronavirus relief negotiations.
“One way that President Trump can show some graciousness in the next 73 days during the transition is to publicly support a significant pandemic relief bill,” he said. “We’ve had record new cases all this past week. It’s past time for us to come together and deliver the relief the American people are waiting for.”
With bipartisan support needed to guarantee the success of any legislation during the lame-duck session, Coons predicted “outreach” from Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris to Republican Senate leadership. He also noted that, regardless of progress in the coming weeks, the pandemic response would remain at the top of the Biden administration’s agenda.
“I don’t think that passing something that is strong now undermines the opportunity to pass something broader (later),” he said. “We frankly don’t know where this pandemic’s going right now, but it’s not going in a good direction.”
Blunt agreed that the parties are “going to continue to find ways to work together” and characterized an interest in greater unity as the election’s takeaway.
“I thought Vice President Biden did a great job last night talking about where the country wants to head,” Blunt said. “One way to do that is to finish this election the way it deserves to be finished.”
Looking ahead to January, the Missouri senator said that the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies was currently planning for “an outside, full-scale inauguration” as “it’s easier to scale-back than to scale-up,” amid the pandemic.
And amid the current controversy over Trump’s response to the election results, he nevertheless offered a prediction for the Jan. 20 ceremony.
“I expect to see both Vice President Biden and President Trump on the stage on Inaugural Day, and that’ll be a powerful message, no matter which one of them is sworn in that day,” he said.
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