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Democrats take back the Senate from self-proclaimed 'Grim Reaper' McConnell

For the first time in a decade, Democrats will have unified control of the federal government.

By Emily Singer - January 06, 2021
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Jon Ossoff, Raphael Warnock

Democrats on Wednesday won control of the Senate, a major victory that will give President-elect Joe Biden unified control of the federal government and a better chance at passing his first-term agenda.

Both NBC News and ABC News made the call as a mob of Donald Trump supporters broke into the Capitol, violently breaking past barriers and law enforcement officers to enter the building, forcing it into lockdown.

Control of the chamber came down to two runoff elections in Georgia, where GOP Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler had to hold onto their seats in order for Republicans to maintain their grip on the Senate.

In the early hours of Wednesday, multiple outlets projected Raphael Warnock the winner of the race against Loeffler, making him the first Black senator from the state of Georgia.

Later on Wednesday, Jon Ossoff sealed his victory against Perdue.

With their wins, the partisan breakdown of the Senate stands at 50-50. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will serve as the tie-breaking vote, which will officially oust Mitch McConnell as majority leader.

Both parties poured hundreds of millions of dollars into the races.

Loeffler ran a racist and exceedingly nasty race against Warnock. Ultimately, she hitched her wagon directly to Donald Trump and his lies about his loss to Biden and spreading conspiracy theories that Republicans feared would tamp down GOP turnout. On Monday, Loeffler announced she would join several other Republican senators in objecting to certification of the Electoral College results on Wednesday, officially supporting Trump’s attempted coup.

Perdue, for his part, also ran racist and antisemitic ads, including an ad in July that edited an image of Ossoff, who is Jewish, to make his nose look bigger. The ad accused Ossoff and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who is also Jewish, of “TRYING TO BUY GEORGIA!” — an antisemitic trope that accuses Jews of controlling politics with their money.

The Perdue campaign removed the ad but refused to apologize for it.

Perdue was also plagued by several stock trading scandals. At a debate in October, Ossoff called Perdue a “crook” for his various financial scandals. Video of that debate moment went viral, and Perdue refused to appear at any more debates with Ossoff.

In the end, both Republicans fell and took the Republican majority down with them.

Winning the majority was no small feat for Democrats, who were the early underdogs at the start of the election cycle and faced a tough map of GOP incumbents running in states Trump carried in 2016.

However, Trump’s unpopularity weighed Republicans down. And disdain for Trump led grassroots donors to flood Democratic candidates with cash, helping them run successful field operations and ad campaigns that were too much for some GOP incumbents to withstand.

Among the Democratic trophies was Cory Gardner, the Colorado Republican who first won the seat in 2014 but could not withstand the Democratic tidal wave in 2020. Gardner was one of the most vulnerable Republican incumbents the entire cycle, and was viewed as dead on arrival by the time Election Day came around.

Arizona Republican Martha McSally lost her race to now-Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly in a special election to fill out the remainder of the late Sen. John McCain’s term. McSally had lost a bid for Senate in Arizona just two years ago to fill the seat of now-retired GOP Sen. Jeff Flake. But Arizona’s Republican governor appointed McSally to McCain’s seat, and voters rejected her for a second time in the November race.

Only one Democratic incumbent lost reelection: Alabama Sen. Doug Jones. Jones won a special election in 2018 to replace Jeff Sessions, who resigned from the seat to join Trump’s administration. That year, Jones narrowly defeated Roy Moore, the GOP nominee who was accused of child molestation. But in 2020, Jones could not overcome Alabama’s strong Republican bent against a nominee without the stain of such a scandal.

With a Democratic-controlled Senate, Biden can have the Cabinet of his choosing, after Republicans had threatened to block his nominations. He can also fill important judicial vacancies — something Republicans had refused to allow Obama to do in the final years of his time in office, even stealing a Supreme Court seat that was later filled by Trump.

However, as the filibuster currently remains in place, Senate Republicans could thwart Democratic legislative priorities like additional coronavirus relief, voting rights, and gun control — and hundreds of other bills passed by the Democratic-led House for which McConnell, as the self-described “Grim Reaper” of the Senate, has refused to even hold a vote.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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