Georgia Highlights: Democrats Win the Senate as Ossoff Defeats Perdue

Jon Ossoff and the Rev. Raphael Warnock campaigning in Atlanta. Both defeated their Republican opponents, assuring that the balance of power in the Senate will shift.

Democrats took control of the Senate on Wednesday with a pair of historic victories in Georgia’s runoff elections, assuring slim majorities in both chambers of Congress for President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. and delivering an emphatic, final rebuke to President Trump in his last days in office.

The Rev. Raphael Warnock defeated Senator Kelly Loeffler, becoming the first Black Democrat elected to the Senate from the South. And Jon Ossoff, the 33-year-old head of a video production company who has never held public office, defeated David Perdue, who recently completed his first full term as senator.


Both Democrats now lead their defeated Republican opponents by margins that are larger than the threshold required to trigger a recount under Georgia law.

The Democrats’ twin victories will reshape the balance of power in Washington. Though they will have the thinnest of advantages in the House and Senate, where Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will break 50-50 ties, Democrats will control the committees and the legislation and nominations brought to the floor. That advantage will pave the way for at least some elements of Mr. Biden’s agenda.

Mr. Ossoff’s victory comes at a moment when the nation’s political leadership has been paralyzed by a pro-Trump mob that stormed the Capitol and halted the formal accepting of the Electoral College results by Congress. The day’s extraordinary proceedings — rioting interrupting the peaceful transition of political power — crystallized the campaign the Georgia Democrats ran against their Republican opponents, both of whom pledged to seek to overturn the results of the presidential election to keep Mr. Trump in office.

The Republicans’ losses in a state that Mr. Biden narrowly carried in November, but that still leans right politically, also amounted to a vivid illustration of the perils of embracing Mr. Trump. He put his diminished political capital on the line with an election eve appearance in Northwest Georgia. And Mr. Perdue and Ms. Loeffler unwaveringly embraced the president throughout the runoff races even as he refused to acknowledge Mr. Biden’s victory and brazenly demanded that Georgia state officials overturn his loss in the state.

The political fallout of Mr. Trump’s tenure is now clear: His single term in the White House will conclude with Republicans having lost the presidency, the House and the Senate on his watch.

Mr. Ossoff and Mr. Warnock won thanks to a frenetic get-out-the-vote push that began immediately after the November election, when no candidate in either race claimed the majority needed to avoid a runoff. Driving turnout among liberals and Black voters in the early-voting period, Democrats built an insurmountable advantage going into election day.

They won thanks to overwhelming margins in Georgia’s cities, decisive victories in Georgia’s once-Republican suburbs and because of lackluster turnout on Tuesday in the rural counties that now make up the G.O.P. base.

President Trump called on his supporters to march to the Capitol. Shortly thereafter, they stormed the building.
Credit…Jason Andrew for The New York Times

As Democrats took control of the Senate on Wednesday, winning the two Georgia seats up for grabs, chaos erupted on Capitol Hill as supporters of President Trump clashed with the police and stormed the Capitol building, interrupting proceedings as Congress prepared to certify the results of the 2020 election.

The Capitol was put on lockdown and Vice President Mike Pence was rushed from the Senate chamber as the pro-Trump mob — some waving Confederate flags — overwhelmed the building’s security. The mayor of Washington, D.C., ordered a 6 p.m. curfew.

Hours after the chaos began, Mr. Trump issued a statement telling the mob to leave. “You have to go home now,” he said in a video recorded at the White House and posted to Twitter. “We have to have peace. We have to have law and order. We don’t want anyone hurt.”

Still, the president ultimately offered encouragement to the mob, noting: “We love you. You’re very special,” and “I know how you feel.” Before his statement, he had only sent two tweets that asked protesters to remain “peaceful.”

Shortly before Mr. Trump’s statement, President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. made brief remarks calling on Mr. Trump to demand an end to the incident, which Mr. Biden called an “unprecedented assault” on democracy.

The remarkable scene at the Capitol — only hours after Mr. Trump addressed a rally of his supporters and declared that “we will never concede” — came less than 24 hours after polls had closed in Georgia in two Senate runoffs that gave the Democrats the seats necessary to take control of the House, Senate and White House.

The Rev. Raphael Warnock, a Democrat and the pastor at the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, defeated Senator Kelly Loeffler, a Republican, to become the first Black senator in Georgia history and the first Black Democrat to be elected to the Senate in the South.

In the other contest, Jon Ossoff, the Democratic challenger, defeated David Perdue, the Republican whose Senate term ended on Sunday.

Earlier on Wednesday morning, before major networks called the race, Mr. Ossoff declared victory and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, proclaimed that his party would win the majority.

“It feels like a brand new day,” Mr. Schumer said in a statement. “For the first time in six years, Democrats will operate a majority in the United States Senate — and that will be very good for the American people.”

Mr. Perdue has not yet conceded the race but Gabriel Sterling, a top Georgia elections official, said late Wednesday morning that Mr. Ossoff would most likely win by a margin large enough to avoid a recount, which is 0.5 percent in Georgia.

With Democrats winning both races, Mr. Biden now has a stronger ability to enact his agenda. Democrats will hold 50 seats in the Senate and de facto control of the chamber, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris serving as the tiebreaking vote and Senator Mitch McConnell relegated to minority leader.

Mr. McConnell, the Republican leader who had indulged Mr. Trump’s baseless accusations of election fraud for the last two months, publicly broke with him after losing one race in Georgia and falling behind in the other. In a floor speech before pro-Trump protesters breached the building, he called rejecting efforts to overturn the election the most important vote of his decades-long career and warned of sending democracy into a “death spiral.”

“We simply cannot declare ourselves a national board of elections on steroids,” Mr. McConnell said. “The voters, the courts, and the states have all spoken. They’ve all spoken. If we overrule them, it would damage our Republic forever.”

Not long after, Trump supporters put the proceedings on hold by making their way inside the building by force — including the Senate chamber itself. Inside the House chamber, photos showed law enforcement officers with guns drawn.

Even before the Georgia results were official, the Republican recrimination began about how the party not only lost the White House but was also at risk of ceding control of the Senate.

“It turns out telling voters the election is rigged is not a good way to turn out your voters,” said Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah and an outspoken critic of Mr. Trump.

Later, Mr. Romney, from a secure location after the breach, declared of the chaos at the Capitol, “This is what the president has caused today, this insurrection.”

The twin Georgia races drew record levels of campaign spending — roughly half a billion dollars in two months — and national attention, with Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden both campaigning in the state on Monday.

The results showed both Mr. Warnock and Mr. Ossoff carrying a larger share of the vote in county after county — particularly in majority-Black areas — than Mr. Biden did in November, when he became the first Democratic presidential candidate to win Georgia since 1992.

The Rev. Raphael Warnock at an event in Atlanta. He said Wednesday that his victory shows Georgia “is more diverse, and it is more inclusive, and it readily embraces the future.”
Credit…Lynsey Weatherspoon for The New York Times

The Rev. Raphael Warnock, a Democrat, said Wednesday that his Senate victory over the Republican incumbent Kelly Loeffler was the result of a decade of work registering hundreds of thousands of Georgians to vote.

“Welcome to the new Georgia,” he told NPR on Wednesday morning. “It is more diverse, and it is more inclusive, and it readily embraces the future. And I am a product of that.”

Mr. Warnock, 51, will become the first Black senator in Georgia history, and the first Black Democrat to be elected to the Senate in the South.

“Georgia certainly made me proud last night,” he said. “They decided to send a kid who grew up in public housing to the United States Senate to represent the concerns of ordinary people.”

Shortly before his victory was finalized early on Wednesday, Mr. Warnock, the pastor at the storied Ebenezer Baptist Church, had marveled at his experience compared to that of his mother, who worked in cotton fields as a teenager.

“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 United States senator,” he said.

In the NPR interview, Mr. Warnock dismissed the attempt by President Trump and some Republicans to try to challenge the president’s loss in Georgia in November when Congress certifies the Electoral College results on Wednesday. The effort is expected to fail.

“We counted those votes three times,” Mr. Warnock said, referring to Georgia’s recount in the fall. “It is clear, when you look at the swing states all across our country, Joe Biden is the president-elect. Unfortunately, there are enablers of this nonsense in the United States Senate. And that’s why the people who I’m running into all across Georgia are frustrated with politics.”

Mr. Warnock said that once in the Senate, he would support a $2,000 stimulus payment to help people who qualify endure the coronavirus pandemic. “Folks waited for months without getting any relief at all,” he said.

And he said he would focus on shrinking “well-connected corporate interests in our politics.”

“If the people can get their democracy back, we can get the reform that we need around issues of environmental justice, around health care — around a whole range of concerns,” he said.

Dorothy Boler, who moved to Atlanta from Chicago 25 years ago, said she had been proud to cast her ballot for Mr. Warnock during the early voting period.
Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

ATLANTA — Michael Simmons, 63, has not missed voting in a major election since 1976. The most important for him was 2008, when he cast a ballot for President Barack Obama. But his votes in November’s general election and the Senate runoffs on Tuesday were ranked closely behind.

The Rev. Raphael Warnock’s success in the Senate runoffs sent a jolt of jubilation through much of Georgia’s African-American community, as they saw a Black man taking an office that had been held by segregationists when he was born. There was also a level of pride in having an emissary of the Black church serve in the highest levels of government.

“I never would have thunk — put that down, thunk! — I’d see this happen,” said Mr. Simmons, a manager at a nonprofit organization in downtown Atlanta. “Personally, I don’t expect the world to change because we have a Black man in the Senate, but we can see progress.”

The office of the nonprofit where Mr. Simmons works is just a few blocks from Ebenezer Baptist Church, the renowned congregation that Mr. Warnock leads. Mr. Simmons often saw Mr. Warnock walking around the neighborhood.

The win carried enormous significance for him: “This was a place where for many years we got the short end of the stick,” Mr. Simmons, who grew up in Alabama and moved to Atlanta after college, said.

He also thought the rest of the country now owed a debt to Georgia — for the work of the state’s Black voters and particularly the efforts of Stacey Abrams. “I think there ought to be a lot of gratitude for what we’ve done.”

Dorothy Boler, who moved to Atlanta from Chicago 25 years ago, said she had been proud to cast her ballot for Mr. Warnock during the early voting period. “I praised the Lord he got in there,” she said. “We’re going to make history.”

African-American faith leaders said on Wednesday that they, too, were thrilled with Mr. Warnock’s victory, which they also saw as a rebuke of his Republican opponent, Kelly Loeffler, who had portrayed him as a “radical” and “socialist” and had attacked him using excerpts from his sermons that he and his supporters said were taken out of context.

“I went all over this state,” said Bishop Reginald T. Jackson, the presiding prelate in Georgia of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. “Blacks couldn’t wait to get to the polls. She gave us more reasons to get out to vote — couldn’t wait to vote — just to vote against her.”

On Wednesday afternoon, he compared the celebration in Georgia with the turmoil in Washington, where a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol, and said it underscored for him a transformation happening not just in his state but across the country, one that gives him optimism.

“I think it speaks volumes and I think that, despite what you see on television like this, there is still a part of this country that is coming together,” Bishop Jackson said. “That’s the group that Trump speaks for,” he added, referring to the rioters, “but it’s a dwindling portion of the country.”

Gov. Brian Kemp, right, entered the State Capitol in Atlanta. “It has been a disgrace,” he said of Wednesday’s events.
Credit…Ben Gray/Associated Press

ATLANTA — Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia strongly condemned on Wednesday the storming of the U.S. Capitol by a pro-Trump mob, calling it a “disgrace” and arguing that if he had heeded President Trump’s demands for a special session of the Georgia Legislature to contest his state’s election results, a similarly dangerous situation might have ensued in Atlanta.

“It has been a disgrace, and, quite honestly, un-American,” Mr. Kemp said at a late-afternoon news conference at the state capitol, where dozens of right-wing protesters, some heavily armed, had gathered outside.

“It is unimaginable that we have people in our state and in our country that have been threatening police officers, breaking into government buildings,” he added. “This is not the Georgia way and it is not the way of our country.”

Credit…Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, via Associated Press

Runoff elections on Tuesday for Georgia’s two Senate seats resulted in victories by the Democratic candidates, Jon Ossoff and the Rev. Raphael Warnock, giving their party full control of Congress.

On Wednesday morning, hours before Congress was to certify President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory, President Trump held a rally in Washington in which he falsely claimed, as he has many times, that his loss in states like Georgia was the result of a rigged election. A large mob of his supporters then stormed the Capitol.

Mr. Kemp, a first-term governor, is a Republican who benefited from Mr. Trump’s endorsement. But since the November election, Mr. Trump has repeatedly attacked him for declining to call a special session of the Legislature to investigate Mr. Trump’s bogus claims of fraud and take steps to overturn his loss in Georgia.

A number of elected Republicans in Georgia had also called for a special session.

At the news conference, Mr. Kemp addressed anyone who has been pushing for the idea.

“You can now see what that would have looked like,” he said. “Rudy Giuliani saying, quote, trial by combat, end quote, is simply outrageous, and there’s no place for that in our nation,” referring to a speech by Mr. Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, earlier on Wednesday.

Mr. Kemp called for national unity, and said he had extended a previous order that activated the National Guard. Brad Raffensperger, the Republican secretary of state who was also attacked by Mr. Trump, had to be taken out of the capitol building earlier Wednesday in order to assure his safety.

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. Biden congratulated the Rev. Raphael Warnock, who beat the Republican incumbent, Kelly Loeffler.
Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

With one Democratic victory in Georgia already assured and the other Democratic candidate leading in his bid for the state’s second Senate seat, President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. said on Wednesday that he believed Democrats would take control of the Senate, a result that he said signaled a demand for immediate action from the nation’s leaders.

“Georgia’s voters delivered a resounding message yesterday: they want action on the crises we face and they want it right now,” Mr. Biden said in a statement.

Mr. Biden congratulated the Rev. Raphael Warnock, who beat the Republican incumbent, Kelly Loeffler, and said that he believed Jon Ossoff would also be victorious in his race against David Perdue, his Republican challenger. The race was called for Mr. Ossoff on Wednesday afternoon.

Winning both seats would give Democrats and Republicans each 50 seats in the Senate, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris having the power to cast tiebreaking votes. In the House, Democrats hold a slim majority.

“I’m pleased that we will be able to work with Speaker Pelosi and a Majority Leader Schumer,” Mr. Biden said, while also pledging again to try and reach a bipartisan consensus on major issues.

In his statement, the president-elect also thanked Stacey Abrams, who has spent the last decade building a Democratic political infrastructure in Georgia and increasing turnout there among people of color.

The president-elect said that both Ms. Abrams and Keisha Lance Bottoms, the mayor of Atlanta, had “laid the difficult groundwork necessary to encourage turnout and protect the vote over these last years.”

Members of the Atlanta Dream in September. The team, which is co-owned by Kelly Loeffler, wore shirts that said “Vote Warnock.”
Credit…Ned Dishman/NBAE, via Getty Images

On Tuesday morning, the Rev. Raphael Warnock made a final pitch to voters in Georgia with a video released on social media that prominently featured W.N.B.A. players campaigning on his behalf against the Republican incumbent, Senator Kelly Loeffler, who also happens to be a co-owner of a franchise, the Atlanta Dream.

The players got what they wanted. Mr. Warnock, a Democrat, defeated Loeffler in an outcome that six months ago would have been considered an upset. The attention W.N.B.A. players brought to Mr. Warnock’s campaign is widely considered to have played a role in his victory, renewing questions about how the league can move forward with an owner who is opposed by most of its players.

Over the summer, Ms. Loeffler openly criticized the league for dedicating its 2020 season to social justice, after the W.N.B.A., taking a cue from players like Angel McCoughtry of the Las Vegas Aces, said its games would honor the Black Lives Matter movement.

Ms. Loeffler spent much of the rest of her Senate campaign blasting Black Lives Matter, accusing the movement of holding “anti-Semitic views” and promoting “violence and destruction across the country.” That prompted the W.N.B.A. players’ union to tweet: “E-N-O-U-G-H! O-U-T!” The W.N.B.A. commissioner, Cathy Engelbert, told ABC in July that “Kelly’s views are not consistent with those of the W.N.B.A. and its players.”

Ms. Loeffler dug in and escalated her language. In August, led by players like the Dream’s Elizabeth Williams and the Seattle Storm’s Sue Bird, teams across the league took the dramatic step of wearing shirts before a game that read “Vote Warnock.” The demonstration elevated Warnock’s profile among people who had not been following the race, and prompted a flood of donations to his campaign.

Ms. Loeffler said during the campaign that the players’ speaking out against her was an example of “cancel culture.”

It is not clear whether the end of the campaign and Ms. Loeffler’s loss in the election will prompt changes in the dynamic between her, the Dream players and the W.N.B.A. The team’s majority owner, Mary Brock, has expressed an interest in selling her stake, but Ms. Loeffler, who owns 49 percent of the team, has said she plans to keep her piece of the franchise. Some athletes have called for Ms. Loeffler to sell, but Ms. Engelbert told CNN in July that Ms. Loeffler would not be forced to do so.

In August, ESPN reported that Baron Davis, the former N.B.A. player, was part of an investment group interested in buying the Dream. The N.B.A. star LeBron James added intrigue of his own to the discussion, posting on Twitter early Wednesday: “Think I’m gone put together an ownership group for the The Dream. Whose in? #BlackVotesMatter.” Renee Montgomery, a Dream player who sat out last season to focus on social justice reforms, joined in: “I’m ready when you are.”

Stacey Abrams in Atlanta on Tuesday. After losing her race for governor in 2018, she has led voter registration efforts in Georgia.
Credit…Elijah Nouvelage/Reuters

As Democrats flipped both of Georgia’s Senate seats from the incumbent Republicans, credit flowed to one person broadly acknowledged as being most responsible for Georgia’s new status as a Democratic state: Stacey Abrams.

Ms. Abrams, the former minority leader of the Georgia state House, has spent a decade building a Democratic political infrastructure in the state, first with her New Georgia Project and now with Fair Fight, the voting rights organization she founded in the wake of her losing campaign for governor in 2018.

Late Tuesday night, Ms. Abrams praised the thousands of “organizers, volunteers, canvassers & tireless groups” who helped rebuild the state’s Democratic Party from the rump it was when she became the state House minority leader in 2011.

While Ms. Abrams is widely expected to run for governor again in 2022, she is at the moment one of the most influential American politicians not in elected office. It was her political infrastructure and strategy of increasing turnout among the state’s Black, Latino and Asian voters that laid the groundwork for both President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory in November and the Democrats’ performance in the Senate races.Ms. Abrams was not alone in Georgia, of course: Numerous other Black women have led a decades-long organizing effort to transform the state’s electorate.

“We weren’t surprised that Georgia turned blue, because we’ve been working on it for over 15 years,” Deborah Scott, the founder of Georgia Stand Up, said after Mr. Biden’s victory in the general election.

“It’s been an uphill battle,” said Felicia Davis, a longtime organizer in Clayton County. “Because here, we’re not just women, we’re Southern women. And we’re not just Southern women, we’re Southern Black women.”

Still, Ms. Abrams was the most visible face at the forefront of the turnout push. And when it came time to cut a TV ad urging Georgians to confirm the status of their absentee ballots — voters have until Friday to cure absentee ballots that contain minor errors — she appeared in the ad reminding them how to do so.

“Don’t wait,” she said. “Your vote has the power to determine the future of Georgia and our country. It’s time to make certain your voice is heard.”

Former President Barack Obama commended the Rev. Raphael Warnock on Wednesday for winning election as the first Black senator from Georgia, casting Mr. Warnock’s historic victory as an example of why civic engagement — an issue Mr. Obama has long championed — matters.

“My friend John Lewis is surely smiling down on his beloved Georgia this morning, as people across the state carried forward the baton that he and so many others passed down to them,” Mr. Obama wrote in a statement, referring to the Democratic congressman and civil rights activist who died in August.

That President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. won Georgia in November and that Democrats are poised to take both of the state’s Senate seats “is a testament to the power of the tireless and often unheralded work of grassroots organizing,” Obama wrote, “and the resilient, visionary leadership of Stacey Abrams.” Ms. Abrams, the former minority leader of the Georgia state House, spent 10 years working to expand the Democratic electorate.

“Democrats in Georgia and across the country should feel good today,” Mr. Obama wrote. “But the past four years show us that even outside of election season — and outside of races that garner national attention — we’ve got to remain engaged in civic life.”

And Mr. Obama seemed to indirectly refer to Wednesday’s events in Congress, where some Republicans, under the encouragement of President Trump, have objected to certifying Mr. Biden’s Electoral College victory.

“In recent years, our institutions, our democracy, and truth itself have been greatly tested by those who’ve chosen to prioritize personal gain or political ambition over our democratic principles,” Mr. Obama wrote. “And even a good election will not eliminate those threats.”

The victory on Wednesday morning by the Rev. Raphael Warnock, who becomes the first Black Democrat to be elected to the Senate from the South, confirmed that Georgia’s metamorphosis from conservative bastion to battleground state was complete. The changing demographics are likely to reshape the political dynamics of this Deep South state for a generation.

Until this week, Republicans held every statewide elective office and majorities in both statehouses. But the upset victories by Mr. Warnock and Jon Ossoff in two runoff races, coming on the heels of a narrow win by President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr., showed that Democrats could forge a coalition to win Georgia even when the focus shifted away from removing Donald Trump from office.

Perhaps even more significant, the runoff results showed that Democrats could mobilize their diverse and largely metropolitan voting base to try and boost two overtly liberal candidates — a Jewish man and Black man — to the Senate from Georgia for the first time in history.

“There’s no going back,” said Jacquelyn Bettadapur, chairwoman of the Democratic Party in Cobb County, a once conservative suburban county where Mr. Biden won in November by a double-digit margin. “A Democrat would be a fool not to play in Georgia going forward.”

From the earliest moments of the Trump era, Georgia emerged as a hotbed of Democratic opposition, attracting national attention and a flood of political spending after Mr. Ossoff announced his run for a House seat two weeks before Mr. Trump’s inauguration. Since then, the state has been caught up in the political upheaval brought by a polarizing president.

In 2018, Gov. Brian Kemp, with the backing of Mr. Trump, won a narrow victory against Stacey Abrams. This week, Mr. Kemp’s name prompted jeers from a Republican audience at a Trump rally after he refused the president’s efforts to overturn millions of votes in the state. Democrats, meanwhile, are celebrating Ms. Abrams as a liberal hero for turning out voters and swinging the state.

Representative Nikema Williams, the state Democratic Party chairwoman who was sworn into Congress this week, said Mr. Biden’s victory gave Democrats, particularly Black voters, confidence that they could win competitive races. And early voting in this week’s runoffs showed that turnout among Black voters increased from November, a notable shift from the drop-off that is typical in runoff races.

“This election was not about Donald Trump,” Ms. Williams said. “This was about people on the ground realizing that if they show up en masse they can overcome the voter suppression and we can win Georgia.”

“For the first time in six years, Democrats will operate a majority in the United States Senate — and that will be very good for the American people,” said Senator Chuck Schumer.
Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Hours before Jon Ossoff was declared the winner in his Senate race, Democrats exulted on Wednesday morning as they appeared poised to take control of the Senate, a feat that would hand them unified control of Congress — albeit by razor-thin margins — as well as the White House.

With the Rev. Raphael Warnock victorious and Mr. Ossoff leading in a pair of runoff elections in Georgia, the top Democrat in the Senate, Chuck Schumer of New York, proclaimed on Twitter: “Buckle up!”

“We sure did not take the most direct path to get here, but here we are,” Mr. Schumer said at a celebratory news conference in the Capitol. “For the first time in six years, Democrats will operate a majority in the United States Senate — and that will be very good for the American people.”

The twin victories in Georgia gave Democrats 50 seats in the Senate and left Republicans with the same number, handing Democrats a working majority because Vice President-elect Kamala Harris would be empowered to break ties.

Mr. Schumer told reporters that he had already spoken to President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Congress’s first order of business would be to approve $2,000 direct payments to be sent to Americans struggling in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. But he declined to clarify whether Democrats would approve just the checks or seek a large package including other priorities like state and local aid or increased unemployment insurance.

On a conference call with Democrats, Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the majority leader, played the Ray Charles hit “Georgia on My Mind” for ebullient colleagues as they contemplated what their newfound power on the other side of the Capitol would mean as Mr. Biden assumes the presidency.

“We will pursue a science and values-based plan to crush the virus and deliver relief to struggling families, safeguard the right to quality affordable health care and launch a plan to build back better powered by fair economic growth,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement.

The Georgia victories were a strong rebuke of President Trump, under whose leadership Republicans lost control of the House, the White House and the Senate.

Some of Democrats’ most ambitious priorities could be blocked, however, by the legislative filibuster, which sets a 60-vote threshold for any major initiative. Mr. Schumer batted away questions about a push from the party’s left flank to change the rules to essentially kill the filibuster by lowering the threshold to a simple majority.

“We are united in wanting big, bold change, and we are going to sit down as a caucus and discuss the best ways to get that done,” he said.

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