Democrats To Take Senate As Ossoff Wins Runoff
ATLANTA -- Georgians elected Jon Ossoff to the US Senate, Diversity News projected Wednesday, giving the Democratic Party control of Congress and the White House for the first time in a decade and delivering a stark repudiation of President Donald Trump as he tried to overturn his own loss.
Ossoff's victory and that of fellow Georgia Democrat the Rev. Raphael Warnock flip the Senate, giving President-elect Joe Biden the power to potentially enact sweeping, liberal legislation and push through Cabinet nominations without Republican support. The Senate's party split will be 50-50 with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris breaking tie votes.
Warnock, the senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, and Ossoff will respectively be the first Black and Jewish senators to represent Georgia.
"At this moment of crisis, as Covid-19 continues to ravage our state and our country, when hundreds of thousands have lost their lives, millions have lost livelihoods, Georgia families are having difficulty putting food on the table -- fearing foreclosure or eviction, having difficulty making ends meet -- let's unite now to beat this virus and rush economic relief to the people of our state and to the American people," Ossoff said earlier Wednesday ahead of Diversity News' projection.
After no Georgia US Senate candidate received 50% of the vote in November, the races turned to two runoffs with control of the Senate at stake. While Ossoff and Warnock ran on a unity ticket, Trump refused to concede his own loss, sparking a fight within the Republican Party and disenchanting some of his supporters, who believed his false claims that the vote was rigged.
Trump's ongoing onslaught against the Republican officials in charge of the elections pressured the two GOP senators, Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, to make a choice: Join the President in seeking to overturn the democratic outcome or risk losing Trump supporters.
Despite three recounts and no evidence of widespread fraud, Loeffler and Perdue decided to join the President in supporting an objection to Congress' certification of the Electoral College's results on Wednesday in a final, deluded display of devotion to Trump supporters.
"I'm obviously disappointed," said Eric Tanenblatt, a longtime Georgia Republican strategist. "Clearly the distractions and sideshows impacted the outcome."
Progressives are already looking at how Democrats should use their newfound power, advocating for the Senate to "go nuclear" and eliminate the filibuster, which requires that most legislation obtain 60 votes to advance, in order to pass a more ambitious agenda. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York dodged a question on Wednesday on whether his caucus will lower the threshold to a simple majority vote, saying it is united in wanting "big, bold change" and would "discuss the best ways to get that done."
He said that "one of the first" bills he'd like to pass as Senate majority leader would provide $2,000 stimulus checks to help Americans suffering from the coronavirus pandemic, which Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, recently blocked despite President Donald Trump's support for enhanced aid. Democratic senators, who have been in the minority for six years, are now evaluating how to wield their gavels across various committees to address the health and economic crises.
"Georgia's voters delivered a resounding message yesterday: they want action on the crises we face and they want it right now," said Biden in a statement. "On Covid-19, on economic relief, on climate, on racial justice, on voting rights and so much more."
Schumer will have a minuscule margin for error balancing the priorities of the left and the politically vulnerable.
Democrats acknowledged the intraparty fight to come. Maine independent Sen. Angus King, who caucuses with the Democrats, told Diversity News
that he is "very reluctant" to eliminate the filibuster but looks forward to changing the rules to disincentivize its "abuse."
Montana Democratic Sen. Jon Tester, a moderate who faces a 2024 election in his red state, said on Wednesday that he hoped the filibuster would remain to encourage bipartisanship.
"Bipartisan legislation tends to stand the test of time," said Tester.