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What Senate Republicans are saying after Trump refused to commit to an orderly transfer of power

Senator Susan Collins.ALEX EDELMAN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

WASHINGTON - Senate Republicans insisted Thursday that there will be an orderly transition of power — though many failed to mention President Donald Trump’s refusal to commit to the hallmark of a democracy if he loses the election.

"Well, we're going to have to see what happens. You know that I've been complaining very strongly about the ballots and the ballots are a disaster," Trump said during a White House news briefing Wednesday night.

Some Republicans, such as Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, immediately tweeted their opposition to such a notion. Others responded either in tweets or when pressed by reporters on Capitol Hill.

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Several Republicans seized on 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton's advice to current nominee Joe Biden not to concede if the race is close.

"Joe Biden should not concede under any circumstances because I think this is going to drag out, and eventually I do believe he will win if we don't give an inch and if we are as focused and relentless as the other side is," Clinton said last month.

Late Thursday, on a voice vote, the Senate unanimously passed a resolution by Sen. Joe Manchin III, D-W.Va., reaffirming the commitment of the Senate to a peaceful transition of power.

Here is the reaction from Senate Republicans. Thirty responded via tweet or when questioned by reporters or both. Twenty-three have not responded to emails or calls from The Washington Post:

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Lamar Alexander of Tennessee

"George Washington was once asked what's the distinguishing characteristic of this country. He said it's not the election of the first president, it's election of the second president and the peaceful transfer of power between the two. So that's what distinguishes the United States from every other country. So we will have a peaceful transfer of power however the election goes out."

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He declined to address Trump's remarks directly.

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Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee

"We always have a peaceful transition."

Asked to respond to Trump failing to say there would be one, Blackburn said: "We are hopeful that everything will go well."

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Roy Blunt of Missouri, chairman of the congressional committee overseeing the inauguration

"Well, there will be peaceful transfer of power if he loses. If he wins there'll be no transfer of power at all. You know the advice apparently given to Senator Biden, Vice President Biden by Secretary of State [Hillary] Clinton, you should never concede - what does that mean? What does any of this talk mean? There's an Election Day process, there is a legal process if there are concerns about that. And if there is a transition, it will be timely and peaceful."

Asked whether Trump should have said that, Blunt said: "At this point, chairing the inauguration, I'd prefer to be standing there by him when he's sworn in for a second term, but on January the 20th, one of those, one of the candidates will be sworn in as president and all the legal questions hopefully will have been answered, and it will be, whether Vice President Biden concedes or the president decides not to, I think all of this talk, by both the Biden campaign and president, is unhelpful."

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John Boozman of Arkansas

"The peaceful transition of power is a hallmark of our democracy. This celebrated norm is what sets us apart and we fully expect this long-standing tradition to continue."

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Richard Burr of North Carolina

"I think that anybody that feels that there's a fault in the election would test it. But at the end of the day we have protocols for this."

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Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia

A spokesman said Thursday: "We have had peaceful transitions of power for hundreds of years and Senator Capito believes that we will continue to have them."

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Susan Collins of Maine

Via tweet: "One of the foundations of our democracy is a peaceful transition of power between administrations. That has been true throughout our history, and this year will be no different. The winner of the presidential election will be sworn in on January 20th."

Later, to reporters, she said: "The peaceful transfer are fundamental tenets of democracy. And I am confident that we will see it occur once again.

"I don't know what his thinking was, but we have always had a controlled transition between administrations. And I'm certain that if there's a change in administrations, that we have the calmness as well. It's fundamental to our democracy."

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Kevin Cramer of North Dakota

Said Trump speaks in "very extreme manners occasionally" and he didn't find what Trump said "last night to be overly extreme, quite honestly."

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John Cornyn of Texas

Cornyn said Trump's comments were not appropriate. Pressed on whether GOP would do something if the president loses but refuses to leave office, Cornyn said, "I'm not going to answer a hypothetical."

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Ted Cruz of Texas

"There's going to be a peaceful transfer of power. And what I'm much more concerned about is Joe Biden stated intention to challenge the legitimacy of the election if he doesn't win."

Discussing the prospect of a contested election, Cruz said: "I think that's a real threat to the legitimacy of our election and it's one of the reasons why it's so important that we confirm the Supreme Court nominee before the election, so we have a full court able to resolve whatever legal challenges arise."

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Deb Fischer of Nebraska

A spokesman said Thursday: "Senator Fischer unequivocally supports the peaceful transition of power."

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Cory Gardner of Colorado

"It's something that I've talked about in speeches from my very first days when Nancy Pelosi peacefully handed the gavel over to John Boehner, it's a hallmark of our democracy. And I've spoken at length about it in the past, about the continuing need to use that as a settled democracy."

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Lindsey Graham of South Carolina

Via "Fox & Friends": "People wonder about the peaceful transfer of power. I can assure you, it will be peaceful. Now, we may have litigation about who won the election, but the court will decide, and if the Republicans lose, we will accept that result. But we need a full court."

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Charles Grassley of Iowa

"I would have the same concern when Hillary Clinton advised Biden not to concede the election. . . . We have a Constitution and the Constitution says when the presidency ends. You ask me just from the standpoint of what the president said: It isn't very good advice from Hillary Clinton to advise Biden about that."

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James Lankford of Oklahoma

"I'm a little surprised that this has become such an issue because he made a comment very similar in 2016 talking about 'we'll see' . . . I don't think there's any intention that there's not going to be a peaceful transition here between President Trump in the first term to the second term. I think the implication out there is everyone is focused on transition trying to get him to talk about how you're going to hand over to Biden. That assumption I think that's what he should push back against on, and I'm still amazed the number of people I hear arguing about this."

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Mike Lee of Utah

A spokesman said Thursday: "Sen. Lee is entirely confident that both President Trump and Joe Biden will honor the results of this November's election."

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Mitch McConnell of Kentucky

Via tweet: "The winner of the November 3rd election will be inaugurated on January 20th. There will be an orderly transition just as there has been every four years since 1792."

Asked later by reporters, McConnell responded: "Did you see my tweet? That pretty well sums it up. That's what my tweet was about, I think it pretty well sums up how I feel about it."

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Jerry Moran of Kansas

Via tweet: "The peaceful transition of power is an essential part of our democracy. Nothing but the rule of law under the Constitution determines this process."

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Rob Portman of Ohio

Via tweet: "Throughout America's history, the peaceful transition of power has been a hallmark of our democracy. This year, both candidates must commit to abiding by the results, no matter the outcome."

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Pat Roberts of Kansas

"I didn't hear him say that but that doesn't mean he did. I think he may be referring to what has happened in (Pennsylvania) already - the mail-in ballots, ballot-harvesting. We already have people delaying the result . . . or at least that's what I thought he was referring to. I cannot imagine a transfer of power - well, let's hope, for goodness sakes, whether it's a transfer for another four years of the president or a transfer to Biden that it would be peaceful."

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Mitt Romney of Utah

Via tweet: "Fundamental to democracy is the peaceful transition of power; without that, there is Belarus. Any suggestion that a president might not respect this constitutional guarantee is both unthinkable and unacceptable."

Ask by reporters what happens if Trump doesn't step down: "I don't think there's any scenario of that nature that's realistic and I'm absolutely confident there will be a peaceful transition if there's a new president, or if not, we'll have a continuation.

"No question that all the people sworn to support the Constitution would assure that there would be a peaceful transition of power, including the president."

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Mike Rounds of South Dakota

"I think his message was first of all he expects to win so he doesn't have to worry about that, but second of all, I can just tell you that I think everybody believes that we will have a very peaceful transition. But that means people that protest have also got to be peaceful, as well, when he does win. And so this is very important that we send a message that in America, we always have a peaceful transition or continuation of responsibilities. Look, I think it goes without saying, in America, we always have a peaceful transition."

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Marco Rubio of Florida

Via tweet: "As we have done for over two centuries we will have a legitimate & fair election. It may take longer than usual to know the outcome, but it will be a valid one. And at noon on Jan 20, 2021 we will peacefully swear in the president."

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Ben Sasse of Nebraska

"The president says crazy stuff. We've always had a peaceful transition of power. It's not going to change."

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Rick Scott of Florida

"There will be a peaceful transfer - transition of power. It's happened forever. It's gonna happen in November, or January. . . . I'm very, I'm very comfortable there will be a peaceful transition of power, there'll be no way in the world that's not gonna happen."

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Richard Shelby of Alabama

"Well, we've always had a peaceful transfer of power, that's one of the hallmarks, and I think this year will be no exception. . . . We don't know what's gonna happen, nobody does. I think whatever happens, we will have a peaceful transfer."

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Dan Sullivan of Alaska

"My view, of course we're going to have a peaceful transition of power. We're the United States of America. We're not a banana republic."

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John Thune of South Dakota

"Well the only thing I can say that, you know, the peaceful transition of power is a fundamental principle of our democracy. And I expect that it will apply to this election." Asked whether he was confident Republicans would stand up to Trump if he won't cede power, Thune said: "Well, Republicans believe in the rule of law, we believe in the Constitution, and that's what dictates what happens . . . so yes."

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Thom Tillis of North Carolina

"Well I think the president will accept the result. We got to make sure it's fair. . . . Hillary Clinton said Joe Biden should not accept the result of the election under any circumstances, you ought to ask the same question of every Democrat if they think there's a fair election, if they'll support the outcome of it."

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Sen. Patrick Toomey of Pennsylvania

“Candidates need to live with the outcome of elections. When an incumbent loses an election or is subject to statutory term limits, it’s important that they support the orderly transfer of power.”