They opposed COVID aid for months, and that will likely continue if they win and Republicans hold on to the Senate majority.
If you’re one of the tens of millions of Americans who is jobless, behind on rent, or otherwise wracked with economic uncertainty, there’s a simple truth you need to know: The likelihood of you getting further federal help during the coronavirus pandemic may come down to what happens tomorrow in Georgia.
On Tuesday, voters in the state will participate in Georgia’s runoff elections and decide who they want to represent them in the US Senate: Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff or incumbent multi-millionaires and questionable stock-trading Republicans Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue. Nothing less than control of the US Senate is on the line. If Democrats win both seats, it will result in a 50-50 split in the Senate, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking vote. If Republicans win just one of the races, Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will retain control of the Senate and be able to obstruct President-elect Joe Biden’s entire agenda.
As the coronavirus pandemic enters its second year, that agenda is increasingly likely to include additional relief and protections for tens of millions of Americans who have fallen into poverty, hunger, and other forms of economic hardship amid the pandemic. While ongoing vaccination efforts could bring an end to the worst of the pandemic this year, it will still be many months before things approach anything remotely resembling normal—underscoring the need for further help.
Biden and fellow Democrats—including Warnock and Ossoff—have long supported further direct payments and expanded federal unemployment benefits, while the Republican-led Senate, including Loeffler and Perdue, opposed comprehensive relief for months. If McConnell remains as majority leader, that obstruction is likely to continue. But if Democrats flip both seats, it could open the door to another round of desperately-needed financial relief for suffering Americans.
Both Ossoff and Warnock have consistently campaigned on further aid and those efforts recently received a boost from an unlikely source: President Donald Trump. Trump last month nearly torpedoed Congress’ recent $900 billion relief bill by demanding $2,000 checks instead of the $600 ones supported by Senate Republicans.
Democrats seized on Trump’s request and have worked to turn the campaign into a referendum on $2,000 checks.
“Six-hundred dollars is a joke. They should send $2,000 checks to the American people right now because people are hurting,” Ossoff said during an appearance on CNN on Dec. 22.
“Congress should swiftly increase direct payments to $2,000,” Warnock added in a statement.
The effort gained such momentum that House Democrats passed legislation last week increasing the payments from $600 to $2,000. The bill is all but certain to die in McConnell’s Senate, but if Ossoff and Warnock win, it could breathe new life into the effort, which is supported by 78% of likely voters across the country, according to a recent poll from Data for Progress.
Another December poll from the organization found that 63% of likely Georgia voters said they would be more likely to vote for candidates who supported further coronavirus relief payments.
If those numbers hold true and the prospect of further relief checks animates voters’ decisions in Georgia, it could help propel Ossoff and Warnock to victory, unlocking the door to those very checks.