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Monthly Legislative Newsletter: January 2021
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The Never-Ending Election:
Today, Wednesday, January 6, 2021, Congress will meet in a joint session to certify the 2020 presidential election results. 12 Republican Senators and a multitude of Republican Members of the House of Representatives have indicated that they will object to the results based on charges of widespread fraud in the election – of which no real evidence has been presented. These official objections will force the joint session of the House and the Senate to suspend and the two chambers will go into separate sessions to consider the objection. In order for the objection to be sustained, both chambers must agree to it by simple majority. It is extremely unlikely that any of these objections will be sustained.

President Trump has also stated that he has asked Vice President Mike Pence, who presides over the joint session, to declare him winner based on the voter fraud accusations. However, the Vice President’s role in the certifying of election results in the joint session is strictly procedural. He is unable to deny a state’s electoral votes and declare someone else the winner.

Currently, all signs point to President-Elect Biden being declared the winner of the 2020 presidential election.  

Georgia Senate Runoff and What it Means for the Biden Administration

The night of Tuesday, January 5th, 2021 proved to be one of the most exciting nights for Democrats in the last 10 years as it looks increasingly like the Democratic party will take control of the U.S. Senate, giving Democrats control of both the U.S. Senate, House of Representatives and the Presidency. This result pavesthe way for President-Elect Joe Biden to accomplish more ambitious goals in the health care arena than he previously could have should Republicans have maintained control of the Senate.

Currently, Raphael Warnock has been declared the winner of the special election to fill the seat of former Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA), who retired at the end of 2019 due to health related issues. Georgia Governor Brian Kemp appointed Senator Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) to fill the seat until a special election could be conducted. Because this was a special election to see who will complete former Senator Johnny Isakson’s term, Warnock will have to run again in 2022 for a full 6-year term.

Simultaneously, Senator David Perdue (R-GA) was running for reelection against Jon Ossoff, a former Congressional staffer and candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives. At this point in time, most media outlets have declared the race “too close to call.” However, Ossoff holds a slim lead that is not likely to change. Because the race is so close, it will likely go into a recount, thereby delaying the official result.

Both of these races are important as they will determine who will control the Senate and if President-Elect Biden will have to work with a divided Congress. Additionally, it is likely that both of these results will face legal challenges in court. PRG will continue to monitor the results and provide updates as needed.

President-Elect Biden’s First 100 Days

President Biden’s first 100 days when he takes office will set the tone for the rest of his presidency and what he may be able to accomplish. President-Elect Biden will be inheriting a country where the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage on, with growing racial justice issues, and an economy that will need major help.

His first and most important priority will be to get the COVID-19 pandemic under control and this will likely dominate a majority of his health initiatives at the beginning of his presidency. He will likely push for another COVID-19 relief package that contains more funds for the Provider Relief Fund, Paycheck Protection Program, and various other funding to combat COVID-19 and keep businesses afloat.

Should the results in the Georgia Senate elections hold, Raphael Warnock will defeat incumbent Senator Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) and bring the Democrats one step closer to the majority. Should Jon Ossoff hold on to his slim lead that is still too close to call over incumbent Senator David Perdue (R-GA), Democrats will have the majority via the tie-breaking vote of Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris. This outcome would greatly expand President-Elect Biden’s opportunities in the first 100 days of his presidency to potentially include other health priorities such as strengthening the Affordable Care Act, appointing more progressive nominees to cabinet and sub-cabinet positions, and be able to start laying the ground work for sweeping drug pricing legislation.

Controlling Democratic both chambers of Congress and the Presidency will make it significantly easier for President-Elect Biden to deliver on the health related promises he made during the campaign. Should Jon Ossoff be able to hold on, we can expect a busy first 100 days that has a large focus on the administration’s health priorities.

Appropriations and COVID-19 Relief Update

On Sunday, December 27, 2020 President Trump signed the combined appropriations and COVID-19 relief legislation, thus averting a partial government shutdown. However, the signing -4- of the legislation was not without drama. Before ultimately signing the bill, President Trump demanded that Congress increase the size of the tax rebate checks from $600 to $2,000 per person.

Additionally, he asked Congress to drop a multitude of spending items from the appropriations side of the legislation, including parts of the foreign aid budget which was actually included in the Administration’s Fiscal Year 2021 budget request that he provided to Congress earlier in the year. He also stated that he would send a redlined version of the legislation back to Congress, requesting lawmakers to take out the items he found objectionable. However, if Congress fails to make the requested changes to the legislation, the funds must be released.

Attached you will find a document that details exactly what was included in the final appropriations portion of the legislation. Additionally, below you will find brief notes on relevant provisions in the COVID-19 relief portion.