Nearly two weeks after President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. was declared the winner of the election, leading congressional Republicans remain unwilling to recognize his victory, keeping silent on Friday even in the face of President Trump’s increasingly brazen attempts to subvert the results.
As Mr. Trump met at the White House with Michigan lawmakers in hopes of overturning that state’s popular vote, a few additional fissures emerged in the otherwise solid wall of Republican support for his tactics. Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, the retiring chairman of the Senate’s health committee, became the most senior Republican to call for Mr. Trump to begin the transition process. And the party’s top House appropriator, Representative Kay Granger of Texas, said it was time for the president and Republicans to “move on.”
“If there is any chance whatsoever that Joe Biden will be the next president, and it looks like he has a very good chance, the Trump administration should provide the Biden team with all transition materials, resources and meetings necessary to ensure a smooth transition so that both sides are ready on Day 1,” said Mr. Alexander, a three-term senator, former governor and former education secretary. “That especially should be true, for example, on vaccine distribution.”
But by and large, those notes of dissent and others came from Republicans who are already retiring at year’s end or have no immediate plans to face voters, like Senators Mitt Romney of Utah and Ben Sasse of Nebraska.
As Mr. Trump mounts perhaps the most audacious challenge to the democratic process in recent memory, the critical mass of the Republican Party has raised nary a concern about his behavior, appearing to have bowed to fears of angering him and the conservative base on which he holds a firm grip. While publicly silent, they privately worry that speaking out could invite a primary challenge, squander party enthusiasm before a pair of crucial Georgia Senate runoffs and undermine their message as they embark on a wholesale effort to undercut Mr. Biden’s presidency from the start.
And having defied the predictions of a down-ballot blood bath at the hands of voters fed up with Mr. Trump, congressional Republicans have seen there is little political cost for their quiet support.
“The House Republican Conference is really the party of Trump,” said Representative Jim Banks of Indiana, a newly elected member of party leadership, even as he implicitly acknowledged Mr. Biden’s victory. “I’m skeptical that Joe Biden will be anything but a lame duck from Day 1.”
For his part, Mr. Biden has largely tried to position himself above the political fray and his 306-vote Electoral College victory as beyond dispute. He plunged forward on Friday, meeting in Wilmington, Del., with Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the top Democrats in Congress, for the first time since his victory to discuss an approach to a year-end government spending package and how to provide additional coronavirus relief.
The statements by Mr. Alexander stood out not just because other congressional leaders have held their tongues but because Mr. Alexander is extremely close to Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, and often consults with him on delicate issues.
Aides for Mr. McConnell and Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the top House Republican, did not respond to requests for comment on Friday.
Mr. McConnell, seeking to avoid a messy dispute with a president more popular with their party’s base than he is, has repeatedly sought to divert questions about Mr. Trump’s refusal to concede by pointing to the procedural details of the country’s election system. It is a way of avoiding an overt challenge to the president and buying time until state election authorities essentially render his claims moot by officially certifying the results.
“We’re going to have…