Georgia Senate runoff to determine outlook for Biden business agenda

GOP candidates have presented themselves as firewall against socialism

The outcome of Georgia’s Senate runoff election on Tuesday will play a pivotal role in shaping the federal government’s approach over the next two years to business policy on everything from post-pandemic recovery efforts to health care and taxes.

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Republicans David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, both incumbents, have presented themselves as a firewall against socialism, warning voters that Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock would side with the progressive wing of the Democratic Party on key issues. Meanwhile, the Democratic candidates have accused their GOP opponents of a botched response to the coronavirus pandemic in which they prioritized their own financial interests over the needs of Georgians.

A victory for the Democrats may determine the extent to which President-elect Joe Biden can pursue the economic reforms he championed on the campaign trail, including higher taxes on the rich, an expansion of the Affordable Care Act, and a shift toward green energy.

While both parties have presented their candidates as a joint ticket, only the Democrats would need to win both races to secure a 50-50 tie in the Senate. A sweep would hand the Democrats effective formal control of the Senate because Vice President-elect Kamala Harris would act as the deciding vote. And if Democrats eliminate the filibuster, they could ram Biden priorities through with simple majority votes.

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Republicans would retain a Senate majority if either Loeffler or Perdue win their races. In that scenario, the Biden administration would likely encounter deadlock on any major policy overhaul.

Democrats say wins in Georgia will allow them to provide $2,000 COVID-19 relief checks to most Americans.

“If you send Jon and the Reverend to Washington, those $2,000 checks will go out the door, restoring hope and decency and honor for so many people who are struggling right now," Biden said at a rally on the eve of the vote, adding that checks would “never get there” if the GOP wins.

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President Trump emphasized the economic stakes during a final rally in Dalton, Ga., on Tuesday night, warning that a Democratic win would allow progressives to pack the Supreme Court, pass the Green New Deal and raise taxes for ordinary Americans.

"The Democrats want to turn America into Venezuela, with no jobs, no prosperity, no rights, no freedom, no future for you and your family," Trump said.

In a repeat of their tactics from the general election, both parties have emphasized their plans to jumpstart the post-pandemic economy.

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All four Senate candidates have signaled they would support $2,000 stimulus checks as a core tenet of future relief measures. Both Republicans voted in favor of the $900 billion relief package approved late last year, which included $600 payments and an extension of unemployment benefits.

Ossoff and Warnock have backed calls among Democrats for more extensive relief measures, including financial assistance for state and local governments. Both candidates also have aligned with Biden on plans to expand coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

Candidates on both sides of the aisle drew scrutiny over their personal dealings in recent weeks. The Democrats hammered Loeffler and Perdue over claims that they used advance knowledge of the pandemic obtained at private briefings to guide personal stock transactions from which they profited. Both candidates have denied wrongdoing.

Perdue has accused Ossoff of knowingly failing to disclose business dealings between his media firm and a Hong Kong-based firm with ties to the Chinese Community Party. In an interview with Fox News earlier this month, Ossoff said the accusation was “utter nonsense.”

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Warnock, senior pastor at the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, has faced scrutiny over remarks he made in old sermons, including an instance in which he declared that “nobody can serve God and the military.”

His opponent, Loeffler, has pointed to a 1995 event in which the church where Warnock served as a junior pastor hosted Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, suggesting it is proof that the Democrati holds socialist views. In response, Warnock has accused Loeffler of attempting to distract voters from a failed response to the pandemic and illicit stock trades.

Heavy usage of mail-in ballots have raised concerns that the outcome of Georgia’s Senate races may not be known on Tuesday.