Obama, U.S. Senate rivals agree Biden’s agenda at stake in runoff

    Former President Barack Obama said during a campaign Zoom call Friday that he learned first-hand the difficulties of leading a divided government when the Republicans took control of the Senate in 2010. Ross Williams/Georgia Recorder (Nov. 2020)

    Republicans and Democrats are in agreement — a Republican Senate majority will make it next to impossible for President-elect Joe Biden to accomplish his agenda.

    Where they disagree is whether that is a positive or a negative.

    Both sides made their cases Friday as President Barack Obama logged into Zoom to rally Georgians to vote for Democratic Senate candidates Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, while Vice President Mike Pence flew into Savannah to stump for Republican incumbent Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue. President Donald Trump is scheduled to visit Valdosta Saturday.

    “You are now, once again, the center of our civic universe,” Obama said. “Because the special election in Georgia is going to determine, ultimately, the course of the Biden presidency and whether Joe Biden and Kamala Harris can deliver legislatively all the commitments they’ve made.”

    If Ossoff and Warnock win the Jan. 5 runoff, the U.S. Senate will be tied 50-50 between Republicans and Democrats, with the tie-breaking vote going to Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. Democrats will maintain control of the House, and former Vice President Joe Biden is set to become the next president in January. Anything less than two wins in Georgia would allow Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to hang onto his role and likely thwart most of Biden’s plans.

    Obama said he learned first-hand the difficulties of leading a divided government when the Republicans took control of the Senate in 2010, two years into his first term.

    “Although the first two years of my presidency were the most productive legislatively since Lyndon B. Johnson, once Mitch McConnell was controlling that gavel and controlling the agenda in the Senate, we saw a lot of progress halt,” he said.

    Ossoff echoed Obama at the Democrats’ digital meeting,

    “We all know Mitch McConnell’s heart,” he said. “We all know that he’s going to try to do to Joe and Kamala just like he tried to do to President Obama, and partisan paralysis in a crisis like this is totally untenable. We’ve got to empower health experts like Georgia’s own CDC, we’ve got to rush the direct economic relief they’ve been holding up since the summer to people who are suffering.”

    Meanwhile in Savannah, Pence stuck with the false premise that the election could still go to Trump through the courts, though legal experts largely agree such claims have no merit. But Pence tacitly acknowledged that the senate majority is at stake, which would not be possible if he remained vice president.

    “Men and women of the Peach State, I’m here on the president’s behalf because we need Georgia to send two great senators back to a Republican majority in Washington,” he said. “We need to send them back because of who they are. We need to send them back because of all that we accomplished together. And we need to send them back because the Republican Senate majority could be the last line of defense, preserving all that we’ve done to defend this nation, revive our economy and preserve the God-given liberties we hold dear.”

    Perdue, who opened for Pence, made the same implicit admission of the president’s defeat.

    “If (Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer) gets these two seats, he will have the effective majority in the United States Senate, and here’s what’s coming: he’s going to pack the court, he’s going to add Democratic seats to the Senate, he’s going to get rid of the Electoral College. Then what will they do with that? They want to defund the police at a time when we should be defending the police,” he said.

    Perdue hammered Ossoff and Warnock as radical leftists, the same charge he and Loeffler have hammered on since the runoff began. Loeffler canceled her appearance at the rally after a member of her team was killed in an accident, the campaign said.

    Warnock and Ossoff also struck a familiar tone in their attacks on Loeffler and Perdue, painting the wealthy business owners as out of touch with the concerns of regular Georgians.

    “My opponent lives on a private island behind three gates, the Reverend’s opponent’s family literally owns the company that owns the New York Stock Exchange,” Ossoff said. “They don’t care about regular people, and they will be part of that gridlock and obstructionism at a moment when we need strong action and a united front, a United States of America, to confront this public health crisis and get us back on our feet economically.”

    Ross Williams
    Before joining the Georgia Recorder, Ross Williams covered local and state government for the Marietta Daily Journal.Williams' reporting took him from City Hall to homeless camps, from the offices of business executives to the living rooms of grieving parents. His work earned recognition from the Georgia Associated Press Media Editors and the Georgia Press Association, including beat reporting, business writing and non-deadline reporting. A native of Cobb County, Williams holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Atlanta's Oglethorpe University and a master’s in journalism from Northwestern University.