Democrats have gained control of the Senate following the electoral triumphs of Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff in Georgia’s senatorial runoff election on Tuesday, according to the Associated Press. Their elections also mark a victory for Joe Biden's incoming administration as it clears the way for the passage of progressive legislation that he touted during his presidential campaign, from climate change action to the protection of reproductive rights.
Warnock and Ossoff are to replace Georgia’s Republican incumbents, Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue. Warnock, a pastor at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, also makes history as Georgia’s first Black senator and the first Black Democrat senator in the South.
"We were told that we couldn't win this election, but tonight, we proved that with hope, hard work, and the people by our side, anything is possible," Warnock told supporters via a livestream early Wednesday morning, per Politico. "So Georgia, I am honored by the faith that you have shown in me. And I promise you this tonight: I am going to the Senate to work for all of Georgia."
"It is with humility that I thank the people of Georgia for electing me to serve you in the United States Senate," Ossoff said on a Twitter livestream on Wednesday morning, when he also promised to back a "robust public health response" to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. "This campaign has been about health and jobs and justice for all the people of this state, and they will be my guiding principles as I serve this state in the U.S. Senate."
The new Democratic majority in the Senate relegates Senator Mitch McConnell to minority leader. McConnell has been instrumental in blocking the passage of key aspects of the Democratic party’s agenda and, most recently, kept Congress from disseminating $2,000 stimulus checks—an amount that even President Donald Trump has backed—as part of a coronavirus relief package that was passed last month. Senator Chuck Schumer is to become majority leader, and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will be able to cast tie-breaking votes.
Biden congratulated Warnock and Ossoff for their successful electoral runs in Georgia and suggested that their victories signaled an urgent desire for change with voters.
"Georgia's voters delivered a resounding message yesterday: They want action on the crises we face and they want it right now. On COVID-19, on economic relief, on climate, on racial justice, on voting rights and so much more. They want us to move, but move together," he said in a press release. "I have long said that the bipartisan COVID-19 relief bill passed in December was just a down payment. We need urgent action on what comes next, because the COVID-19 crisis hits red states and blue states alike."
Biden also expressed gratitude to "the twin powers of Georgia, Stacey Abrams and Keisha Lance Bottoms," both of whom are widely credited with helping to build a Democratic voter base within Georgia that also helped the state flip blue in the November general election.
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