The Democratic Party appears poised to retake control of the United States Senate. It had flipped one of two seats in a historic victory in a run-off election in the state of Georgia and was leading in the other as at press time.
Democrat Raphael Warnock, a 51-year-old pastor of civil rights giant Martin Luther King Jr’s former congregation, will become Georgia’s first black senator with his defeat of Republican incumbent Kelly Loeffler.
Democrat challenger Jon Ossoff has declared victory with a slim lead of 16,000 votes over his Republican opponent David Perdue, a gap that is expected to widen as remaining votes to be counted come from areas that skew strongly Democrat. At 33, he will be Georgia’s first Jewish senator and the country’s youngest since President-elect Joe Biden was first elected to the Senate in 1973 at age 30.
The results were a stunning turnaround from November, when both Democrats polled slightly behind the Republicans.
They underscored the political shift in the formerly deeply Republican state of Georgia, which has not sent a Democrat to the Senate since 1996, but which voted for Mr Biden in November after months of campaigning and voter registration drives by local Democrat activists and organisers.
It could also signal a rejection of US President Donald Trump, who personally campaigned in Georgia for the Republican senators, and his politics of division and strategy of falsely alleging electoral fraud. He doubled down on Tuesday as Mr Warnock’s victory became likely, claiming without evidence on Twitter that the election was rigged against Republicans.
Mr Warnock paid tribute to his mother, remarking on the improbability of his journey made possible “because this is America”, as he promised to work for all Georgians. “The other day, because this is America, the 82-year-old hands that used to pick somebody else’s cotton went to the polls and picked her youngest son to be a US senator,” he said in a late-night video message to supporters.
Should the Democrats flip the Senate, they will have unified control of Congress and the White House for the first time since 2009, albeit by the narrowest of majorities. Both the Democrats and Republicans will have 50 seats in the Senate if Mr Ossoff wins, giving Vice-President Kamala Harris the tiebreaker vote.
Meanwhile, Washington braced itself for high drama yesterday when Congress was to meet to count and announce Mr Biden’s Electoral College win. The day was to see internal Republican Party tensions erupt into the open in Congress while pro-Trump protesters took to the streets. But all that would not change Mr Biden’s Electoral College victory over Mr Trump – by 306 to 232.
The House of Representatives and Senate were to meet in a constitutionally prescribed joint session scheduled to start at 1pm yesterday (Singapore time 2am today) to count the electoral votes, all of which have been lawfully certified by the states.
Mr Mike Pence, as president of the Senate, was to preside over a roll call of the 50 states and Washington DC. Sealed certificates from each state, containing its electoral votes, were to be opened and officially counted.
If at least one senator and one member of the House of Representatives object to a state’s results, both chambers would separately debate the objection and vote on whether to sustain it. To overturn a result, the House and the Senate must agree by a simple majority vote to do so.
So far, 13 Republican senators and around 140 Congressmen had said they will object to results, likely in at least six states that Mr Biden won: Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
But 23 Republican senators had said they would not join the objections, which are all but certain to fail, given the Democrats’ control of the House.