With a new Congress convening, two runoff elections in Georgia that will determine party control of the U.S. Senate, and the presidential election’s electoral-vote count in Washington, the first week of 2021 is set to be a whirlwind.
The week begins with the swearing-in of the 117th Congress on Sunday, followed by the vote in Georgia on Tuesday and the electoral-vote count in a joint session of Congress on Wednesday.
The three days will serve as a harbinger of the nation’s political leadership and policy to come.
During the first meeting of the new Congress, the House and Senate will adopt rules to govern the January 6 joint session. Constitutional scholars say lawmakers could institute rules that would clarify and add onto existing processes to mitigate the ensuing uncertainty brought on by objections from President Trump’s allies.
While the electoral-vote count could prove long and contentious, it will almost certainly end with Vice President Mike Pence formally certifying Joe Biden’s victory.
The certification fight — pitting the president’s most committed allies against Democrats and those Republicans who have acknowledged Biden as the president-elect — could serve as a preview of what is to come should Biden take office with a divided Congress that struggles to complete formerly mundane tasks, such as funding the government and certifying election results.
However, should Democrats win both runoff elections, taking control of the Senate, Biden and Democratic lawmakers are likely to face far less resistance in instituting left-wing policies, though Democratic infighting would likely remain a roadblock to the party’s legislative goals.
Democrats have maintained control of the House by a small margin after losing ten seats in the November election.
If Democratic challengers Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff beat out Republican senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, respectively, the Senate will be tied 50-50 with incoming vice president Kamala Harris as the tie-breaking vote, giving Democrats control of both chambers of Congress, as well as the presidency.
A Georgia state law requiring a runoff election was triggered in both races after no candidate reached 50 percent of the vote.
Perdue just missed avoiding a runoff, with 49.75 percent of the vote in the November election. Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff was behind by about 87,000 votes.
Meanwhile, in the other race, Loeffler received almost 26 percent of the vote in a 20-candidate special election to serve the final two years of the term of former Republican Senator Johnny Isakson. Democratic candidate Reverend Raphael Warnock won roughly 33 percent of the vote.
Both races have remained tight, according to polling. While a poll on December 18 showed Perdue with a 2.7-point lead over Ossoff and Loeffler with a 6.7-point lead over Warnock, that same survey taken on December 27 showed the Democrats with the edge. Ossoff led Perdue 50.4 to 47.7 percentage points, while Warnock led Loeffler 47.1 to 46.8 percent in the later poll, with a 2.99 percent margin of error, leaving the candidates in a virtual tie.
The swing comes after Trump criticized the COVID-19 relief legislation passed by Congress for providing insufficient aid in the form of direct checks to Americans — $600 instead of the $2,000 checks the president demanded at the eleventh hour.
The president is scheduled to headline a rally in Georgia in support of the two Republican candidates on the eve of the runoff elections.
One day after Georgians head to the polls, a joint session of Congress will meet to count and finalize the presidential Electoral College votes, the final step in formally certifying President-elect Biden’s win.
Biden received 306 electoral votes to Trump’s 232.
However, the session is promising to be at least somewhat complicated as a number of Republicans have promised to contest the electoral results.
Representative Mo Brooks (R., Ala.) said Monday that “dozens” of House Republicans may object to the Electoral College results.
Brooks claimed there is “overwhelming” and “compelling” evidence of “serious voter fraud and election theft” in the election.
“There are dozens in the House of Representatives who have reached that conclusion, as I have,” Brooks said in an appearance on Fox & Friends. “We’re going to sponsor and co-sponsor objections to the Electoral College vote returns of Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Arizona, Nevada and maybe more depending on where we collectively want to go.”
Senate Republican leaders had cautioned their members against joining the effort, but Senator Josh Hawley (R., Mo.) announced Wednesday that he plans to object during the certification process.
“I cannot vote to certify the electoral college results on January 6 without raising the fact that some states, particularly Pennsylvania, failed to follow their own state election laws,” Hawley said in a statement. “And I cannot vote to certify without pointing out the unprecedented effort of mega corporations, including Facebook and Twitter, to interfere in this election, in support of Joe Biden.
“At the very least, Congress should investigate allegations of voter fraud and adopt measures to secure the integrity of our elections. But Congress has so far failed to act,” he added.
Hawley’s support will allow the objection to be heard and debated, as House members needed backing from at least one senator for the objection to be acknowledged.
The challenge will prompt a floor debate followed by a vote in both the House and Senate. Trump will almost certainly lose that vote, as the Democrat-controlled House will not back the effort and a number of Senate Republicans have already acknowledged Biden’s win.
Even if the vote passed the Senate, it would inevitably be stopped by the House.