- Candidates for two special elections in the Georgia Senate runoffs participated in separate televised debates on Sunday, though incumbent David Perdue (R) refused to attend his debate against challenger Jon Ossoff (D).
- In the other debate, Senator Kelly Loeffler (R) and Democratic Reverend Raphael Warnock (D) attempted to cast each other as radical and out of touch with Georgian voters.
- Notably, Loeffler refused multiple times to answer a question about whether or not she believed the election was rigged, a claim President Donald Trump has repeatedly made despite his arguments consistently being struck down in court.
- Likewise, Warnock did not answer questions regarding how much he believes a second coronavirus stimulus package should total or if Democrats should add additional justices to the U.S. Supreme Court, should they win the Senate.
Ossoff Debates Alone
One candidate debated alone onstage Sunday in a precursor to a special Senate election that will ultimately decide which political party controls the chamber for the next two years. Meanwhile, in another debate connected to that same election, two other Senate candidates tried to paint each other as radical and out of touch with voters.
The lone candidate onstage was Democrat Jon Ossoff, who is challenging incumbent Republican Senator David Perdue in Georgia. During that debate, Ossoff called Perdue a “coward” because last month, Perdue announced that he would not appear at Sunday’s debate.
“My message for the people of our state, at this moment of crisis, is your senator feels entitled to your vote,” Ossoff said. “Your senator is refusing to answer questions and debate his opponent because he believes he shouldn’t have to.”
While Perdue’s staff has said he wants to focus on meeting with voters instead debating Ossoff, not showing up also means that Perdue wasn’t challenged on a number of topics — including the pandemic, his refusal to admit that President Donald Trump lost the Presidential Election, and a scandal involving accusations of insider trading.
Loeffler Won’t Say if Election Was Rigged
In the other debate, both candidates — Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler and Democratic Reverend Raphael Warnock — appeared. Notably, they are campaigning for Georgia’s other Senate seat.
Easily one of the biggest takeaways from the night came with the first question when moderator Greg Bluestein asked Loeffler to explicitly state whether or not she believes, like President Donald Trump, that the 2202 Election was rigged. Additionally, Bluestein asked if she supports Trump’s demand that Governor Brian Kemp (R) call a special election to overturn Joe Biden’s win in the state.
Notably, that win was democratically decided by the people of Georgia. It’s also a win that has already been confirmed twice and is in the process of being confirmed again, per a recount request from the Trump campaign.
For the past month, the Trump campaign has filed dozens of lawsuits in multiple states alleging voter fraud. Despite this, those claims have been overwhelmingly dismissed by judges — even ones appointed by Trump himself — as baseless.
Instead of denying the claim that the election was rigged, when asked, Loeffler dodged the question.
“Look, it’s vitally important that Georgians trust our election process, and the president has every right to every legal recourse and that’s what’s taking place,” she said. “But I’ve called for investigations and now, there’s 250 investigations open here in Georgia.”
“Senator, do you believe the election was rigged?” Bluestein followed up.
“It’s very clear that there were issues in this election,” Loeffler responded. “There are 250 investigations open, including an investigation into one of my opponent’s organizations for voter fraud. And we have to make sure that Georgians trust this process because of what’s at stake in this election. The promise that Chuck Schumer made was to fundamentally change America and I’m making sure that we don’t go down the road of socialism.”
Loeffler then went on to dodge the question three more times over the course of the debate.
Last week, Attorney General Bill Barr, who had previously supported Trump’s calls for an investigation into voter fraud, told the Associated Press that there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud.
On Sunday, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) said that while 250 investigations are underway in the state, his office has found no evidence of “systemic fraud” that could change the election results. In fact, Raffensperger has repeatedly denied such claims while also saying that, as a conservative Republican, he had wanted Trump to win.
On Saturday, at a rally in Georgia, Trump continued to spurt baseless fraud claims and call on Kemp to overturn the results; however, on Sunday, Kemp affirmed that he would not call a special session and that Georgia’s election results will stand.
While it’s very striking that Loeffler won’t outright admit Trump’s loss, it’s not exactly shocking. Much of the Republican base is also the super-charged Trump base. Even ardent supporters of the president like Barr have faced criticism from conservative media, which blasted him as part of the “deep state” after he contradicted the president.
Thus, how many votes could Loeffler have compromised had she said the opposite of Trump? How many votes from moderate Republicans would she have compromised if she openly went along with Trump?
Warnock Won’t Answer Questions on Stimulus Cost or SCOTUS
Among other unanswered questions, after moderators asked Warnock how much money Congress should siphon into a second stimulus package, Warnock refused to give a specific number. Instead, he answered more generally, stressing the need for that package to support small businesses, essential workers, and infrastructure and green energy.
“Can you give me a number?” moderator Russ Spencer followed up.
“Look, I think that we should at least make sure that whatever we do, workers are at the center of that relief,” Warnock said.
Bluestein later asked Warnock if he supports calls to increase the number of justices on the Supreme Court. That idea has been pushed by some Democrats following Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation by Senate Republicans on Oct. 26 — a week before the 2020 Elections. In 2016, Senate Republicans argued against starting the confirmation process for Obama-appointed judge Merrick Garland because it was an election year.
“As I move all across the state, Greg, people aren’t asking me about the courts and whether we should expand the courts,” Warnock said. “I know that’s an interesting question for people inside the beltway to discuss, they’re wondering when in the world are they going to get some COVID-19 relief?”
“But it will impact people on the ground, so I am wondering if you can answer the question, do you support expanding the Supreme Court?” Bluestein pressed.
“I’m really not focused on it,” Warnock said before shifting the subject back to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Other Key Highlights
Among other key highlights, both Loeffler and Warnock said they would take a coronavirus vaccine supported by health experts. Both also said they’ll encourage others to also take that vaccine.
The concern that a large number of Americans might be hesitant to take the vaccine has been around since the beginning of the pandemic, and it’s persisted, in part, because vaccine development has been so rapid. At the moment, top vaccine candidates, such as those from Pfizer and Moderna, appear to be safe; however, the FDA has not yet confirmed them for emergency-use.
Despite answering similarly to this one question, much of the debate was Loeffler and Warnock trying to paint the other as out of touch voters.
Several times throughout the night, Loeffler called Warnock a socialist and referred to him as a “radical liberal,” but Warnock affirmed that he believes in“our free enterprise system,” meaning capitalism.
Loeffler accused Warnock of wanting to defund the police, which Warnock denied.
“I don’t think we should defund the police but we certainly do need criminal justice reform,” he said.
“We need to make sure that we have an independent review process when civilians die at the hands of police. We need to make sure that police officers and departments that have a pattern of misconduct are held accountable. We can do that and celebrate police at the same time.”
Warnock attacked Loeffler’s record by repeatedly accusing her of using a private coronavirus briefing in January to engage in insider trading in the stock market. While that investigation has been the subject of high-level scrutiny, a Senate Ethics Committee investigation found no evidence that she had violated rules.
Like Loeffler, Warnock also trying to paint Loeffler as radical, saying she “welcomed the support of a QAnon conspiracy theorist,” that being Representative-elect Marjorie Taylor Greene (R).
Last month, Loeffler denied attachment to the conspiracy theory, saying, “Look, I don’t know anything about QAnon.”
The elections for both of these seats are going to take place on Jan. 5. Monday is the last day to register to vote both online and through mail.
There is no Election Day registration in Georgia.
From there, early voting will begin next Monday. It will continue until Jan. 1. That is the same day as the deadline to request an absentee ballot. That ballot must also be received, by mail or in person, no later than Jan. 5 at 7 p.m.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (CBS News) (The Hill)
Biden Outlines $1.9 Trillion Stimulus Plan
- President-elect Joe Biden unveiled a sweeping $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief stimulus proposal on Thursday.
- Under the plan, $1 trillion would go to direct relief for Americans. This includes a round of $1,400 stimulus checks, an extension and $400 weekly increase to federal unemployment benefits, and a $15 minimum wage.
- The proposal would also allocate $440 billion for aid to local governments and businesses, as well as provide $400 billion to directly fight the coronavirus with more testing and vaccinations, among other efforts.
Biden Outlines Direct Aid in Stimulus Plan
President-elect Joe Biden announced the details of his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief stimulus package while speaking at an event in Wilmington, Delaware on Thursday.
Biden described the package, titled “American Rescue Plan,” as a set of emergency measures to immediately address the country’s economic and healthcare needs. The package will be followed by a second, broader relief package in February, which will aim to address more long-term economic recovery efforts.
Most significantly, $1 trillion — more than half of the funding allocated in the first package — will go to direct relief for Americans. Among other measures, the direct aid provisions in the plan include increasing federal unemployment benefits from $300 a week to $400 a week and extending them from March to September.
Biden’s plan also includes $1,400 stimulus checks to top off the $600 already approved in the December stimulus package. However, eligibility for the direct payments would be expanded to families of non-citizen immigrants as well as families with adult dependents.
Additionally, the proposal includes several other measures targeted at directly helping struggling Americans, such as raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, adding billions in funding for child care, and expanding the child tax credit to poor and middle-class families.
As for the broader economic and pandemic-centered measures, Biden’s package would allocate $440 billion for aid to states, local governments, and businesses. It would also provide $400 billion to directly fight the coronavirus, with a major focus on expanding testing and accelerating vaccine distribution.
Biden has set the dual goals of delivering 100 million vaccines and reopening the majority of K-12 public schools in his first 100 days. To meet that objective, his plan includes $20 billion for a universal vaccination program, $50 billion to expand testing, and $130 billion to help schools reopen safely.
The proposal, overall, meets many of the demands for direct aid that Democrats have pushed for months but have been unable to approve with the Republican-controlled Senate. Now that Democrats hold the presidency and control of both chambers, many members have urged Biden to ask for an even higher price tag.
Biden, for his part, has said he would like to try for a bipartisan majority on his first piece of legislation, but given Republicans months-long resistance to many Democratic asks, that desire is likely a pipe-dream.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (CNN)
Democrats Ask for Investigation into GOP Members Aiding Rioters
- More than 30 House Democrats signed a letter Wednesday demanding that security officials look into “suspicious behavior and access given to visitors” at the Capitol the day before last week’s insurrection.
- The lawmakers claimed they “witnessed an extremely high number of outside groups” visiting, including guests who “appeared to be associated with the rally at the White House the following day.”
- The letter comes one day after Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ) accused her Republican colleagues of bringing rioters into the Capitol the day before for “reconnaissance.”
- Notably, neither the letter nor Sherill herself directly named any members, and these claims have not yet been verified.
Demands for Investigation
Congressional Democrats are demanding an investigation into whether Republican representatives aided the Capitol rioters who lead last Wednesday’s insurrection.
In a letter signed by 31 members Wednesday, lawmakers asked the acting House and Senate Sergeants at Arms to look into “suspicious behavior and access given to visitors” the day right before the attack.
In that letter, the Democrats say that they as well as some of their staffers “witnessed an extremely high number of outside groups” visiting the Capitol.
They pointed out that was unusual because the building has restricted public access since March as part of pandemic protocols. Since then, tourists have only been allowed to enter the Capitol if they were brought in by a member of Congress.
The members found the tours “so concerning” that they reported them to the Sergeant at Arms the same day.
“The visitors encountered by some of the Members of Congress on this letter appeared to be associated with the rally at the White House the following day,” the letter continued. “Members of the group that attacked the Capitol seemed to have an unusually detailed knowledge of the layout of the Capitol Complex.”
The demands come after Rep. Mikie Sherrill (R-NJ) claimed during a Facebook livestream Tuesday that she saw Republican representatives bringing now-identified rioters into the Capitol the day before the riots for “reconnaissance.” Sherrill also alleged that some of her GOP colleagues “abetted” Trump and “incited this violent crowd.”
Members Under Fire
Neither the letter nor Sherill have directly named any members, and none of these claims have yet been verified. However, over the last few days, a number of Republicans have been condemned for their perceived involvement in inciting the rioters.
In a now-deleted video, right-wing conspiracy theorist and “Stop the Steal” organizer Ali Alexander claimed he had planned the rally that took place before the riot with the help of three House Republicans: Paul Gosar (Az.), Andy Biggs (Az.), and Mo Brooks (Al.). All three men voted to undermine the will of the American people and throw out the electoral votes in Arizona following the insurrection.
Biggs and Brooks have both denied that they have any involvement, but Gosar, who tagged Alexander in a tweet he posted just hours before the attack, has not responded to any requests for comment from several outlets.
“Biden should concede,” Gosar wrote. “I want his concession on my desk tomorrow morning. Don’t make me come over there. #StopTheSteaI2021”
While Brooks has denied any involvement in planning the rally, his remarks to the would-be domestic terrorists at the event have sparked widespread condemnation.
“Today is the day that American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass,” he told the crowd. “Are you willing to do what it takes to fight for America?”
Some House Democrats introduced resolutions to censure Brooks for his comments. Other members have also been pushing to invoke Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, a relic of the post-Civil War era which disqualifies people who “have engaged in insurrection or rebellion” against the U.S. from holding public office.
Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) has also received 47 co-sponsored on her proposed resolution that would start investigations for “removal of the members who attempted to overturn the results of the election and incited a white supremacist attempted coup.”
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (CNN)
House Impeaches Trump By Largest Bipartisan Margin in History
- The House voted to impeach President Donald Trump on Wednesday for “inciting an insurrection,” making him the first-ever president to be impeached twice.
- Ten Republicans broke party ranks to vote in favor of impeachment, which means this is the most bipartisan impeachment in U.S. history.
- Ahead of the vote, sources close to Senate Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters he believes Trump committed impeachable offenses and that he was pleased Democrats were moving forward with a vote because it will make it easier to “purge” Trump from the party.
- McConnel later said he has not yet decided whether he will vote to convict Trump. Still, he has refused to convene the Senate before Jan. 19, meaning that as of now, there is little chance that the Senate will conduct a trial and oust Trump before his term ends.
House Debates Impeachment
The U.S. House of Representatives voted 232 to 197 to impeach President Donald Trump on Wednesday for “inciting an insurrection,” making him the first-ever president to be impeached twice.
All Democrats voted in favor of the single article. They were also joined by 10 Republicans, which means this is the most bipartisan impeachment in U.S. history.
The decision was debated on the floor after Vice President Pence rejected Democrats’ calls to invoke the 25th amendment and remove Trump from office.
Most notable among the Republican members who voted to impeach was Liz Cheney (R-WY), the number three House Republican who announced her decision Tuesday night.
“There has never been a greater betrayal by a president of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution,” she said in a statement.
Questionable Path in Senate
No Republican Senators have publicly said they support removing Trump from office.
On Tuesday, The New York Times reported that sources close to Senate Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said he “has told associates that he believes President Trump committed impeachable offenses and that he is pleased that Democrats are moving to impeach him, believing that it will make it easier to purge him from the party.”
Sources separately told Axios that “there’s a better than 50-50 chance” that McConnell would vote to convict Trump.
McConnell responded to the reports earlier on Wednesday but did not outright dispute many of the claims.
“While the press has been full of speculation, I have not made a final decision on how I will vote and I intend to listen to the legal arguments when they are presented to the Senate,” he said.
As for whether or not other members of the GOP would follow suit, a top Republican close to McConnell also told Axios that “Senate institutional loyalists are fomenting a counterrevolution” to Trump.
Additionally, McConnell’s advisers have said that he has “privately speculated that a dozen Republican senators — and possibly more — could ultimately vote to convict.” Notably, it would most likely require 17 Republicans to join Democrats in order for Trump to be found guilty.
In regards to a timeline, the Senate is in recess and not set to reconvene until Jan. 19, the day before Joe Biden’s inauguration. McConnell has rejected calls to ask that members return before then, meaning that as of right now there is very little chance that the Senate will conduct a trial and oust Trump before he leaves office.