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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Wednesday rebuked his Republican colleagues' efforts to block the certification of the Electoral College, saying in an emotional speech on the Senate floor that overturning the results of the election "would damage our republic forever."

Why it matters: In a complete break from President Trump and other Republicans, McConnell denounced "sweeping conspiracy theories" about widespread election fraud and said he "will not pretend" voting to overturn the election would be a "harmless protest gesture."

Between the lines: McConnell fears the vote will put Republicans up for re-election in 2022 in a horrible position — forcing them to choose between defying the most popular politician in the party, Donald Trump, and fueling Democratic charges they are undermining democracy.

  • The speech comes hours after the country learned that Democrats were likely to take control of the Senate after winning the Georgia runoffs, making McConnell minority leader for the first time in six years.
  • Many Republicans are privately furious with Trump for blowing their Senate majority by spending the last two months attacking Republicans and condemning the presidential vote in Georgia as "rigged."

What he's saying: "I've served 36 years in the Senate. This will be the most important vote I have ever cast," McConnell said.

  • "Congress will either override the voters, overrule them — the voters, the states, and the courts — for the first time ever, or honor the people's decision. We'll either guarantee Democrats' delegitimizing efforts of 2016 become a permanent new routine for both sides, or declare that our nation deserves a lot better than this," he continued.
  • "We will either hasten down a poisonous path where only the winners of elections actually accept the results, or show we can still muster the patriotic courage that our forebearers showed not only in victory, but in defeat."

Go deeper

Scoop: Conservative group puts $700k behind Hawley

Sen. Josh Hawley explains his objection to certifying the 2020 election results hours after the U.S. Capitol siege. Photo: Congress.gov via Getty Images

A Republican group is raising and spending huge amounts of money defending Sen. Josh Hawley after he was ostracized for early January’s attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Why it matters: The Senate Conservatives Fund is plugging Hawley's ideological bona fides and backfilling lost corporate cash with needed political and financial support, helping inoculate him as he weighs reelection or a possible presidential campaign in 2024.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
23 mins ago - Energy & Environment

Japan vows deeper emissions cuts ahead of White House summit

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga. Photo: Carl Court/Getty Images

Japan on Thursday said it will seek to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 46% below 2013 levels by 2030, per the AP and other outlets.

Why it matters: The country is the world's fifth-largest largest carbon dioxide emitter and a major consumer of coal, oil and natural gas.

54 mins ago - Technology

The global race to regulate AI

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Regulators in Europe and Washington are racing to figure out how to govern business' use of artificial intelligence while companies push to deploy the technology.

Driving the news: On Wednesday, the EU revealed a detailed proposal on how AI should be regulated, banning some uses outright and defining which uses of AI are deemed "high-risk."