Voting is under way on Tuesday for two U.S. Senate runoffs that will determine the party control of the chamber and the future course of Democrat Joe Biden’s presidency.
The races are taking place in the southern state of Georgia as Republican President Donald Trump continues to attack Biden’s victory in the Nov. 3 presidential election, baselessly claiming widespread voter fraud in battleground states including Georgia.
On Nov. 3, all 435 seats in the House of Representatives as well as 35 of the 100 seats in the Republican-led Senate were contested, along with the office of the president.
Voters stand in line before the doors open at Cobb County Community Center on Jan. 5, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia. It is the Last day of the run-off Election between Republican incumbents David Perdue and Kelly Lauffler and Democratic hopefuls Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock. (Getty/Kyodo)
While the Democratic Party retained its control in the House with a narrower margin, the fate of the Senate has remained up in the air because no candidate won the required majority of votes in two elections in Georgia.
The Democrats need to win both runoff seats to get a 50-50 tie in the Senate, which would effectively ensure them a majority as Vice President-elect Kamala Harris could cast the tie-breaking vote.
A Senate that remains in Republican hands could block Biden’s Cabinet picks and complicate his efforts to implement his proposed policy changes and reversals from the Trump administration, likely leading him to rely on the power of executive orders.
Biden’s key policy agendas include what he calls his “ambitious” plan to address climate change that features a $ 2 trillion investment in environmentally friendly energy and infrastructure.
While the president-elect is expected to be able to follow through on his pledge to rejoin the Paris climate accord, a move that does not require Senate ratification, he is likely to face difficulty in pushing ahead with other plans that involve the passage of legislation under a Republican-dominated Senate.
Biden’s proposals on health care issues and tax hikes for the wealthy could also meet resistance from the Republicans.
In the presidential election, Biden, the 78-year-old former vice president under the Barack Obama administration, became the first Democratic nominee since 1992 to carry the state of Georgia.
But Trump, 74, has insisted that Georgia was among the states in which supposed voting irregularities led to his defeat, even though election officials there have dismissed such claims and recounts have confirmed that Biden won by a razor-thin margin of 11,779 votes.
In a stunning revelation, The Washington Post on Sunday made available a copy of a recording of an hour-long call a day before that exposed Trump urging Georgia’s top election official Brad Raffensperger, a fellow Republican, to “find” enough votes to overturn his defeat.
While continuing to delegitimize the presidential election outcome, Trump on Monday encouraged his supporters to vote for the Republican candidates in the runoff races — Sen. Kelly Loeffler and former Sen. David Perdue — in a bid to stop the Democrats from steering the country in a “left-wing, socialist” direction.
“These Senate seats are truly the last line of defense,” he told a packed outside rally in Georgia. “The Democrats are trying to steal the White House, you cannot let them. You just can’t let them steal the U.S. Senate.”
Biden also traveled to Georgia on Monday and encouraged his followers to support the two Democratic candidates — Raphael Warnock, a pastor, and Jon Ossoff, an investigative media production company executive — to ensure “the progress we need to make” on jobs, health care, the environment and other issues.
Polls are set to close at 7 p.m. But it may take time, possibly days according to some media, until the outcome will be known if the race is too close to call.
Such a delay would mostly come from mail-in ballots returned on voting day, Reuters said Monday, citing a spokesman for the office of Raffensperger, Georgia’s secretary of state.