Good morning! It’s Wednesday, January 6, 2021. Thanks for waking up to politics. Have questions or comments? Email me.
It hasn’t even begun, but Joe Biden’s presidency already looks dramatically different today than it did just 24 hours ago. The reason? Democrats are favored to win both of yesterday’s runoff elections in Georgia, retake the Senate majority, and claim a trifecta of power in Washington with control of the White House and both chambers of Congress.
Rev. Raphael Warnock and documentary filmmaker Jon Ossoff, the two Democratic candidates, are both leading their respective rivals, Republican Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue. Warnock — who currently leads Loeffler by 1.2% — has been declared the victor in his race by the Associated Press and other news outlets. Ossoff currently leads Perdue by 0.37%, an edge he is unlikely to relinquish; he joined Warnock in declaring victory this morning, although no news outlets have called his race.
“I am going to the Senate to work for all of Georgia,” Warnock said in his remarks last night. He will be the first Black senator from Georgia, the first Black Democratic senator from the South, and only the 11th Black senator in all of U.S. history. 33-year-old Ossoff, meanwhile, will make history of his own as the state’s first Jewish senator and the Senate’s youngest member in 40 years.
The results mark a sea change in Georgia, stemming from years of efforts by former gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams and other Democratic activists, many of them people of color. In one election cycle, the state voted for a Democratic presidential nominee for the first time in 28 years and ousted both of its Republican senators.
The dual Democratic upsets will also create a fresh start for the Biden era in Washington, where he will now have majorities — albeit slim ones — in both chambers of Congress. The Senate will be tied 50-50, but Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote is enough to ensure Democrat Chuck Schumer will become Majority Leader instead of Republican Mitch McConnell.
“It feels like a brand new day,” Schumer said in a statement this morning. The new Democratic majority will breathe new life into parts of Biden’s agenda, from approving another stimulus package with larger direct checks to ensuring confirmation for his judicial nominees.
As Republicans watch their two Senate seats in Georgia slip away, much of the blame is likely to be directed at President Donald Trump, who divided the GOP as he prodded them to help overturn his November election loss and caused a split over $2,000 stimulus checks — an issue Ossoff and Warnock were all too happy to pick up and run with.
And then there’s the possibility that Trump depressed turnout by repeatedly telling his supporters in recent months that elections, especially in Georgia, were “rigged” against them. As recently as Monday, Trump traveled to the state ostensibly to campaign for Loeffler and Perdue — but ended up talking mostly about himself, falsely insisting that he had won re-election and further diving the state party by promising to exact revenge on Republican Gov. Brian Kemp for rebutting his claims of fraud. (Trump’s controversial call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger probably wasn’t helpful either.)
Trump has responded to the likely losses in characteristic form, baselessly claiming on Twitter that the results were fraudulent. (Both Loeffler and Perdue have yet to concede.) But just like on the presidential level, his claims will be unable to change the outcome, as Republicans prepare to watch their hold on the White House and Capitol evaporate.
RESULTS: Where the two races in Georgia stood as of 9:30 a.m. Eastern Time. (Source: The Washington Post)
But even after the pair of crushing defeats in Georgia, congressional Republicans are preparing to make their last stand on behalf of President Trump today.
The final stage in finalizing President-elect Biden’s victory has arrived: a Joint Session of Congress in which lawmakers formally count the Electoral College votes from all 50 states. The proceedings, which are required by the Electoral Count Act of 1887, normally take place with little fanfare.
But Republicans are planning to object to the electoral votes in some battleground states — amplifying the president’s baseless claims of voter fraud, which have been dismissed by dozens of judges and his own former attorney general. The gambit will be ultimately unsuccessful in overturning the outcome but will cause an hours-long delay.
Here’s how it works:
- Vice President Mike Pence will preside over the session, which is set to begin at 1 p.m.
- Each state’s electoral votes will be announced in alphabetical order.
- Lawmakers have the opportunity to challenge the votes if an objection is signed in writing by at least one House member and one senator.
- Any time a state’s vote is objected to, each chamber will meet separately for up to two hours and debate the challenge.
- In order for any electoral votes to be thrown out, an objection would have to gain majority support in both chambers of Congress, which is incredibly unlikely to occur.
Trump’s calls for the GOP to challenge Biden’s victory has cleaved the party almost in two. The top House Republican, Kevin McCarthy of California, will back Trump; the top Senate Republican, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, will not. (In fact, McConnell is planning a “weighty speech” in opposition to the efforts.)
At least 140 House Republicans are expected to join the objections, while 13 Senate Republicans have signaled their support. The party’s rising stars are divided on either side: Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz among the loudest voices pushing the challenges, Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney and Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton are among the Republicans vocally pushing back.
But no one will be placed in a more awkward position than Vice President Pence. Although his role today is largely perfunctory, Trump has been urging Pence to unilaterally throw out electoral votes — something he is legally unable to do. “All Mike Pence has to do is send them back to the States, AND WE WIN,” the president tweeted this morning, falsely.
According to the New York Times, Pence told Trump at a lunch on Tuesday that he does not have the power to change the election result. But the president quickly denied that report, claiming he and Pence were in “total agreement” as to the vice president’s role.
But, despite the president’s claims, Pence’s only real role today is to declare Biden the president-elect. When he does so, the VP is draw the ire of Trump and his supporters, a sudden reversal of fortunes for Pence after four years of loyally serving under the president.
14 days until Inauguration Day 2021.
- 671 days until Election Day 2022.
- 1,399 days until Election Day 2024.
- 21.1 million coronavirus cases in the United States.
- 357,422 coronavirus deaths in the United States.
- 5.05 million coronavirus vaccine doses administered in the United States.
In Tuesday’s newsletter, I misstated the title of Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). He is the House Minority Leader.
My apologies for the error and thanks to the readers who caught it.
All times Eastern.
President Donald Trump will address his supporters at the “Save America March” at 11 a.m. on The Ellipse, the park outside the White House. The event is expected to draw thousands of protestors urging Republicans to fight the election outcome.
Vice President Mike Pence will gavel in the Joint Session of Congress to count electoral votes at 1 p.m. and continue presiding throughout the day.
President-elect Joe Biden will receive the President’s Daily Brief in the morning. He will then receive a briefing by members of his economic team and deliver remarks on the economy in Wilmington, Delaware.
Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will virtually join the president-elect for his economic briefing and then will receive the President’s Daily Brief herself.
The House will meet briefly at 12 p.m. The Senate will meet briefly at 12:30 p.m. Both chambers will then reconvene at 1 p.m. in the House chamber for the Joint Session of Congress to count the electoral votes, with Vice President Pence presiding.
The Supreme Court is not in session.
Thanks for reading! If you aren’t already subscribed to Wake Up To Politics, you can sign up and learn more here.
You can also support my work by sending a donation, buying WUTP merchandise, or listening to my podcast.