Democrats will take control of the U.S. Senate, making it significantly easier for President-elect Joe Biden to push through additional stimulus legislation, including a third round of stimulus checks that might be $2,000 each.
As of 4:30 p.m. Eastern time Wednesday (Jan. 6), several news outlets, including the Associated Press (opens in new tab), CBS News (opens in new tab), the Washington Post (opens in new tab) and CNN (opens in new tab) projected that Democrat Jon Ossoff would be the winner of a Georgia runoff election, defeating Republican incumbent Sen. David Perdue by about 27,000 votes.
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Earlier Wednesday, Rev. Raphael Warnock, also a Democrat, was declared the winner in the other Senate runoff election in Georgia run-off race, defeating incumbent GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler.
The media outlets declared Ossoff's victory as a pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol building Wednesday afternoon, clashing with Capitol police and forcing the evacuation of members of Congress. The House and Senate had been meeting in a joint session to accept the Electoral Congress vote for Biden.
Unusually for an Electoral College vote acceptance, more than 100 Republican congressmen and about a dozen GOP senators objected to the process, forcing debate on the results of each disputed state's results. The lawmakers had begun to debate Arizona's results when the building went into lockdown as the pro-Trump mob banged on the doors.
When the fracas ends, the Senate will be split 50-50 between the two parties. Because incoming Vice President Kamala Harris will provide the tiebreaking vote in the Senate after Jan. 20, this gives Democrats control of both chambers of Congress and the White House for the first time since 2011.
So what does this mean for future stimulus legislation and stimulus checks? Both will be much more likely to come up for votes, but Senate Republicans will still have the power to block legislation they don't like.
Biden said Monday (Jan. 4) that he supports a third round of stimulus checks of $2,000 each.
"If you send Jon and the Reverend [Warnock] to Washington, those $2,000 checks will go out the door," Biden told a campaign rally in Atlanta while stumping for the Democratic candidates, according to Fox Business (opens in new tab). "And if you send Sens. Perdue and Loeffler back to Washington, those checks will never get there. It's just that simple."
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-California) said Wednesday that a "unified Democratic Party will advance extraordinary progress," according to Politico (opens in new tab).
Not a blank check
Late last month, President Trump threatened to not sign the second stimulus relief bill until the $600 checks that were part of the legislation were boosted to $2,000, but he caved after Republican leaders in Congress told him they couldn't support that.
The first round of stimulus checks issued in March 2020 were $1,200 each; the $2,000 amount seems to have originated with a group of left-wing Democrats, not the Democratic leadership.
Gaining control of the Senate will let the Democrats set the agenda and bring bills to a vote, but it will not give them carte blanche to do whatever they like.
Because of the Senate's filibuster rule, nearly all legislation needs to pass the 100-seat chamber by 60 votes, not 50. Democrats will need at least 10 GOP senators to pass big spending bills, and it's unlikely that that many Republicans would be persuaded to support $2,000 stimulus checks.
In the House, Democrats have only an 11-seat majority, so less than a dozen Democratic defectors could quash legislation. As in the Senate, the moderates of both parties will hold the balance of power.
The vote tallies have not been finalized in either the Ossoff-Perdue or the Loeffler-Warnock races. Military and overseas ballots have until Friday, Jan. 8, to arrive by mail.
If the margin of victory is less 0.5% of the votes in either race, the losing candidate can request a recount. The Ossoff-Perdue race margin is currently about 0.6% percent.