With two Senate races in Georgia coming down to the wire and expected to turn into runoff elections, Democrats have a chance to take control of the Senate and that could mean a larger second stimulus package.
Senate Majority Mitch McConnell is expected to take on the role of primary Republican negotiator after President-elect Joe Biden and Vice-president-elect Kamala Harris take office. However, a politically split senate could mean that the vice president — in this case, Harris — would act as a tiebreaker and give the Democrats a political majority in the Senate and total control of Congress.
Here’s what we know.
2 Georgia Seats Are Expected to Result in a Runoff
Georgia Senator David Perdue is facing a challenge from Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff and Kelly Loeffler — appointed by Georgia Governor Brian Kemp after Senator Jonny Isakson retired due to health issues — is facing a challenge from Democratic candidate Reverend Raphael Warnock.
The Republican incumbents are facing tough challenges from their Democratic opponents, with neither incumbent able to reach the majority necessary to win re-election. After Election Day on November 3, Decision Desk HQ reported that Perdue won 49.7 percent of the vote and Ossoff won 47.9% of the vote.
Decision Desk HQ also reported that Warnock won 32.9% of the vote and Loeffler won 25.9% of the vote.
Georgia law requires that if no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote to win, the remaining two candidates are then pitted against one another in a runoff election. The runoffs require voters who want to participate to be registered by December 7. Three weeks of early voting will be held before the official election day on January 5.
Both Loeffler and Perdue have a history of rubber-stamping Trump’s legislative agenda; in the 116th Congress, Loeffler voted yes on measures Trump supported and against measures that Trump opposed 100% of the time and Perdue voted with Trump 94.1% of the time, according to FiveThirtyEight.
With Republicans in Alaska and North Carolina expected to succeed in their Senate races, as The New York Times reported, that would put the political balance of the senate 50-48 in Republicans’ favor. The runoff races represent Democrats’ last opportunity to politically tie the senate, while Republicans must only win one of those races to maintain control of the senate.
A ‘Blue’ Georgia Could Mean a Larger Stimulus
As the leader of the Senate, McConnell has fought to keep the costs of any new stimulus package down. On November 6, McConnell told Reuters “I think it reinforces the argument that I’ve been making for the last few months, that something smaller – rather than throwing another $3 trillion at this issue – is more appropriate.”
McConnell’s rationale stemmed from the Department of Labor jobs report which revealed a drop in the unemployment rate to 6.9% and an increase of 638,000 non-farm jobs as well as that 3.6 million Americans have been out of work for more than six months and the economy has still not yet recovered 46% of the jobs lost during the pandemic.
Pelosi has been a long-time supporter of support for a larger package, which most recently came in the form of an updated $2.2 trillion version of the HEROES Act. Pelosi has advocated for all of the following — and more — to be included in the updated HEROES Act:
- $18.4 billion to support the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as the National Institutes of Health on coronavirus-related measures
- $225 billion in support for K-12 and higher education
- $249 billion for the Department of Health and Human Services
- $1,200 checks for individuals, with additional payments for dependents
- $600 weekly unemployment supplements
A Republican “skinny” deal backed by McConnell would have cost only $500 billion but would have left many of those key points out or reduced the amounts allocated for them. Senate Democrats blocked that bill from passage.
Republicans have also remained obstinate to including any state and local aid in a package. At one point, Meadows told The Hill that he was didn’t agree with the Democrats’ demands for $1 trillion in state and local aid because he didn’t believe that aid was “based on real needs.”
Pelosi, however, has said that any stimulus package must take a comprehensive approach to prevent the economy from sliding into a deeper recession and help support people and entities struggling during the pandemic. She told The Wall Street Journal that a change in administration would likely change what the package would entail, saying, “It’s certainly night-and-day in terms of negotiating an agreement in 2021 if we have the White House, the Senate and the House.”
Democrats are much more likely to pass a large, comprehensive stimulus package if they have control over both chambers of Congress.