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Democratic U.S. Senate Candidates Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock have been declared winners of the two Georgia runoff elections held on Jan. 5. The Democratic wins in the two runoff campaigns, made necessary under Georgia election law that requires majority support to win office, will effectively clinch the narrowest possible majority for Democrats in the U.S. Senate.

Democrats will now have a slim majority control of both chambers of the 117th Congress after retaining control of the U.S. House of Representatives, initially winning the lower chamber in 2018. As President-elect Joe Biden prepares for his first day in office on Jan. 20, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will assume the role of president of the evenly divided Senate and will be able to cast tie-breaking votes, giving Democrats functional control of the upper chamber.

Georgia Results

Around 1 a.m. ET Jan. 6, Rev. Raphael Warnock (D) was the projected victor in the Senate special runoff election over appointed U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R). At press time*, Rev. Warnock’s lead was 64,488 votes out of a current turnout of 4,424,426 ballots counted with a projected 98% of the vote reporting, a margin of 1.4% (50.7% - 49.3%).

As the special election winner, Rev. Warnock will stand again for election to a full six-year term in 2022. Sen. Johnny Isakson (R) was elected to this seat in 2016 but resigned due to health reasons at the end of 2019. Gov. Brian Kemp (R) appointed Loeffler to replace Sen. Isakson to serve until the outcome of the special election, which determines who would hold the office for the balance of Isakson’s initial term in 2022.

Around 4 p.m. E.T., documentary filmmaker and 2018 House candidate Jon Ossoff (D) was declared the winner against incumbent Sen. David Perdue (R),  giving Democrats the 50 senators they need to gain control of the Senate. At press time, Ossoff led Sen. Perdue by 27,075 votes of 4,419,407 ballots counted, a margin of 0.62% (50.31% – 49.69%). Ossoff wins the in-cycle seat, gaining a six-year term and will stand for reelection in 2026. 

Georgia counties have until Jan. 15 to certify results, while Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has until Jan. 22 to certify the statewide results.

While the Georgia runoff results will garner many important impacts on the construction industry, the legislative future of several key items are certain to change. Kristen Swearingen, ABC’s vice president of legislative and political affairs, warned that the ABC-opposed Protecting the Right to Organize Act would gain traction in a Democratic-controlled Congress in 2021.

The Georgia results could also significantly affect the chances of an infrastructure package in the 117th Congress. With Democrats in control of both chambers, a proposal could arise that is supported by the Biden administration but would require some bipartisan support with the 60-vote rule still in effect in the Senate.

Congress Certifies Biden Victory

While violent rioters stormed the Capitol grounds on Jan. 6, delaying the Congressional certification of the electoral college results, the Joint Session of Congress reconvened in the evening to finish their constitutional obligation of certifying the results of the presidential election for the victor and President-elect Joe Biden. Following the votes, the House and Senate both recessed, with the Senate not scheduled to be in regular session until Jan. 19, and the House not returning until Jan. 20. 

ABC also released a statement on yesterday’s violent riots at the Capitol.

While 139 Republican members of the House and eight Senators registered their objections to the results in at least one state, a number of those previously set to object reversed course and a bipartisan majority in both chambers voted to oppose these efforts and continue with Biden’s certification. Following the chaos on Capitol Hill, many members of Congress took to the floor to express their concern with President Trump’s comments to a crowd of his supporters earlier in the day that they believe incited the riots, and some Republican members of Congress also called on Trump to finally concede the election and publicly commit to a peaceful transition of power. 

Calls from Democrats for the president to be immediately removed from office through the invocation of the 25th Amendment have also increased on Thursday, including in a statement from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and a statement from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who also said that the House may move forward with impeachment if he is not removed. 

Trump administration officials have announced their resignations after yesterday’s events, including Transportation Sec. Elaine Chao, Deputy National Security Adviser Matthew Pottinger, and Mick Mulvaney who currently serves as U.S. special envoy to Northern Ireland and previously served as Trump’s Chief of Staff. 

While President Trump continues to issue false claims about his election victory and refuses to concede, he acknowledged the end of his term in the Oval Office early Thursday morning and said just minutes after Congress formally certified the Electoral College votes in favor of President-elect Joe Biden that there would be an "orderly transition of power" on Jan. 20. In additional fallout from the president’s comments yesterday, Facebook and Instagram announced that they would be blocking the president’s accounts on the social media sites indefinitely.

Vice President Pence said that he did not believe, as Trump has claimed, that a vice president has the power to reject some Electoral College votes for a candidate: "It is my considered judgment that my oath to support and defend the Constitution constrains me from claiming unilateral authority to determine which electoral votes should be counted and which should not."

In the Senate, Republican’s Majority Leader Mitch McConnell gave an impassioned speech on the Senate floor opposing other Republicans' objections to the election results, denouncing "sweeping conspiracy theories" about widespread election fraud and said he "will not pretend" voting to overturn the election would be a "harmless protest gesture."

"I've served 36 years in the Senate. This will be the most important vote I have ever cast," McConnell said. "Congress will either override the voters, overrule them—the voters, the states, and the courts—for the first time ever, or honor the people's decision. We'll either guarantee Democrats' delegitimizing efforts of 2016 become a permanent new routine for both sides, or declare that our nation deserves a lot better than this," he continued. "We will either hasten down a poisonous path where only the winners of elections actually accept the results, or show we can still muster the patriotic courage that our forebearers showed not only in victory, but in defeat."

Looking Ahead to the New Congress

If Democrats opt to maintain current Senate rules, then Republican support will be critical for any legislative efforts. Some bipartisan issues facing the new Congress are the enactment of additional COVID relief, a potential infrastructure package, and Democrats' use of budget reconciliation to repeal or modify some the GOP tax bill.

On COVID relief, the issues of liability protections for businesses and increased funding for state and local government remain unresolved and could resurface when Biden takes office. Biden has said the recently enacted legislation last month was just the beginning, and that he would pursue additional relief efforts. Included in the new relief could be a new round direct checks to Americans and an extension of emergency jobless benefits beyond their current expiration in March. The president-elect has backed $2,000 stimulus checks for American families amid the pandemic and has said he will push for more funding for state and local governments to deal with the health crisis upon taking office.

Biden has also outlined a series of goals for tackling the pandemic in his first hundred days in office, including 100 million vaccine shots, encouraging widespread mask wearing during that period and getting more children back in classrooms. Last week, he outlined plans for the federal government to play a stronger role in vaccinations as the current pace of vaccine administration significantly trails initial projections made by the Trump administration.

The president-elect has also been rumored to be pushing hard on a multi-trillion dollar infrastructure package to further assist with COVID recovery efforts in the next year. The Biden transition team has privately started laying the groundwork to strike a bipartisan infrastructure deal during the first year of his term, indicating to business leaders it sees an opening to use it as a driver for more economic and job relief as the U.S. emerges from the coronavirus pandemic.

Previous plans for significant investment in infrastructure have been held up over disagreement on how to fund such projects. With a majority in both chambers, Democrats could simply propose their own funding revenue stream and force a tough vote for Republicans to invest in infrastructure or oppose funding measures, while hoping to win support of some moderates to enact the legislation. It is also expected that any infrastructure package from Democrats could contain significant provisions related to climate change and favor labor union contractors over merit shop operators through a mandate of project labor agreements.

Even with a Democratic majority, it is hard to imagine that Congress could significantly raise taxes on corporations and high-income households by $3 trillion over 10 years as Biden proposed in his campaign, though some corporate tax hikes could be possible under the budget reconciliation process that only requires a majority in the Senate, and bypasses the 60 vote threshold. Further, some of Biden's proposed $1 trillion in tax cuts for low- and middle-income households could win passage with bipartisan support and the expansion of some refundable tax credits such as the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit, and some new retirement savings incentives for low-income workers could be possible. 

The Biden Administration is also expected to use his executive power to address significant labor issues, and Trump’s actions on issues such as joint employer and independent contractors could be modified or eliminated under the new administration.

Biden is expected to use executive action to repeal some of Trump's anti-immigration efforts, including a 100-day moratorium on deportations, restoring protections for young immigrants brought to the country illegally as children through the DACA program, continuing temporary protected status (TPS) for some immigrants, and eliminating Trump's restrictions on asylum-seekers. Biden has also pledged to send a bill to Congress in the first 100 days that will ensure a pathway to citizenship for nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, though it remains to be seen if this proposal would gain significant bipartisan support, particularly without other significant changes to the U.S. immigration system. 
However, what is unknown at this point is if Senate Democrats will pursue efforts to eliminate the upper chamber’s 60 vote threshold for cloture votes, also known as eliminating the filibuster, which would severely limit the need to seek any Republican buy-in on legislative efforts in the House and Senate. This could also lead to a push for several high-profile progressive priorities including: packing the U.S. Supreme Court, eliminating the Electoral College and statehood for Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico.

For continuing updates, subscribe to ABC's Newsline.

*Georgia election results were updated on Jan. 6, 2021, at 4:30 p.m. ET.


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