Democrats on Wednesday won control of the U.S. Senate, giving them majorities in both houses of Congress and the presidency.
Raphael Warnock beat Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler and Democrat Jon Ossoff bested Republican Sen. David Perdue in Georgia’s two runoff elections.
Those victories give Democrats 50 seats in the Senate, , which would effectively give them control because Vice President-elect Kamala Harris represents the tie-breaking vote.
The Senate sweep in Georgia gives the party control of the upper chamber for the first time since the 2014 elections and boost President-elect Joe Biden’s ability to carry out his early legislative agenda.
“Buckle up!” the Senate’s top Democrat, Chuck Schumer, wrote on Twitter Wednesday. Schumer would become the majority leader if Democrats secure the Senate.
Here’s a look at some top agenda items:
Georgia’s Senate runoffs:Warnock makes history with runoff win, Ossoff ahead
Health care and COVID-19
Throughout the campaign, Biden has said he would be in favor of requiring every American to wear a mask when in a public place or business to slow the spread of COVID-19. He has said he would contact governors to help implement statewide mask mandates and, if they refuse, the former vice president has said he would turn to local officials.
Biden has pledged to put scientists, not politicians, behind the microphone; make testing widely available and free; expand national surveillance programs; and restore the CDC’s real-time dashboard tracking virus-related hospital admissions.
He also has promised to quickly launch a national plan to distribute personal protective equipment to health care workers and first responders, and to ask for clear, national guidance from the CDC on containment, school openings, travel and gatherings. Biden has vowed to restore the type of daily, expert-led briefings that were typical for previous epidemics, such as H1N1 and Zika virus.
Biden has said he would rejoin the World Health Organization, which President Donald Trump began to withdraw from in July, and reestablish the White House National Security Council Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense, which was eliminated by the Trump administration in 2018. Experts also expect the U.S. to strengthen its connections with the United Nations and join in the international effort to get COVID-19 vaccine to low- and middle-income countries. Read more.
Biden hopes to strengthen the Affordable Care Act, which provides health care for millions of Americans. “What I’m going to do is pass Obamacare with a public option,” Biden said in the final presidential debate against Trump. “It becomes Bidencare.”
He says Americans can maintain private insurance, but a public option will also be available, particularly benefiting Americans who couldn’t access Medicaid because they live in the dozen states that didn’t allow them to do so under the ACA.
Biden has said he would raise the subsidies people can use to help them buy coverage through ACA marketplaces. He says no family will have to spend more than 8.5% of their earnings on health coverage because of refundable tax credits for their premiums.
And Americans could further cut down on their out-of-pocket costs because a Biden administration hopes it will lower the price of prescriptions by negotiating drug prices.
Just one day after the general election, Biden promised that on the first day of his presidency, he would rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement, a plan signed under the Obama administration to combat climate change.
But activists will likely want to see more than just signing back on to the Paris agreement from the former vice president once he’s in office.
Young voters and progressives will likely push Biden to support policies such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal. Biden does not support the Green New Deal, but he has released his own plan with the goal to get a “100% clean energy economy” that reaches “net-zero emissions no later than 2050.”
How it works:What GOP allies can do to challenge Trump’s loss
Congress live updates:Lawmakers to count Electoral College votes, affirming Biden’s win
Biden’s road to the White House was paved by Black voters, but Black Americans, along with white allies and other people of color, continue to protest in the streets nationwide against police-involved shootings and racial injustice.
Biden, who has publicly used the phrase “Black lives matter,” released a plan that includes an array of policies to address systemic racism, which includes investing in Black-owned small businesses, creating a new tax credit to help Black Americans buy homes, and investing in historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs).
The president-elect will need to address racial tensions across the country in the immediate future, and not just point to his plan. Leading Black Lives Matter activists plan to hold him and Harris accountable. Read more.
While Biden will need to address the pandemic, he also will need to address the nation’s economic recovery after it was plunged into a recession as a result of COVID-19 shutdowns of businesses. During a speech about his planned COVID-19 response, Biden said he would give Congress one month to get a bill on his desk that included funding to address the public health and economic aspects of combating the virus.
In his view, the bill should include “all the resources necessary so that both our public health response and our economic response can be seen through to the end,” he said.
Biden has promised he will meet with the governors of every state to push forward a strategy to combat the coronavirus.
Biden supports sending direct relief checks worth $2,000 to struggling Americans. The House-approved measure never came to a vote in the Senate, but Democrats have vowed to swiftly revive it.
“It’s one of the first things we want to do once our senators our seated,” Schumer said Wednesday. “Our Georgia senators campaigned on it. Our caucus is for it. We think the American people need it.”
Biden has laid out a plan for unemployment benefits: He would create a health crisis unemployment initiative to help all workers facing a loss of work because of the pandemic; create plans to ensure unemployment benefits are available to those who lose jobs but would be denied benefits for a variety of reasons; extend COVID-19 crisis unemployment insurance, and provide guaranteed emergency paid sick leave and caregiving leave.
Protections for LGBTQ people
Activists expect Biden not only to use executive orders to roll back a range of anti-LGBTQ policies enacted by President Donald Trump but also choose openly LGBTQ judges.
Biden himself has said he plans within the first 100 days of his presidency to push for the passage of the Equality Act, which aims to extend federal protections in the areas of housing, education, credit and services to the LGBTQ population. That’s critical, activists say, since only 21 states have anti-discrimination laws on the books. Read more.
Biden plans to provide a refundable tax credit of up to $15,000 that will help Americans pull together a down payment to purchase a home, shore up rental aid provided by the federal government, and dedicate $10 billion toward expanding a tax credit that spurs the building or revamping of rental housing for low-wage earners.
Biden has talked about making sure Americans don’t spend more than 30% of their income on housing. Biden says he will seek a tax credit for renters who make too much to receive Section 8 vouchers but still need help covering their rent, and fully fund the Section 8 program for those who qualify.
Biden also has proposed several steps to root out the systemic racism that has hindered the ability for people of color, particularly African Americans, to buy or hold onto property. Those obstacles have included everything from onerous interest rates that leave Black people vulnerable to falling behind on payments and ending up in foreclosure to biases that undervalue homes simply because they are owned by Black Americans.
Biden says he will create a national standard for housing appraisals. He will also pursue legislation that will prohibit the lending industry from pushing buyers into mortgages they cannot afford and restore power to the Office of Fair Lending and Equal Opportunity to hold lenders who’ve discriminated against home buyers accountable.
College costs and debt
Biden wants to make community college and comparable training programs free. And students from households earning less than $125,000 a year will not have to pay tuition if they attend four-year public colleges and universities. He also wants to raise the value of Pell Grants, doubling the top amount students can receive.
Biden says that he will reduce the debt burden carried by students after they graduate. After deducting the earnings they need to pay taxes and for essentials like housing and groceries, borrowers will pay 5% of their income above $25,000 toward federal loans taken out to fund an undergraduate degree.
If they’ve been diligent about repaying their debt, after 20 years, the balance of their loans will be forgiven. Borrowers who don’t earn more than $25,000 annually won’t have to make payments on those federal loans, and won’t have to worry about accumulating interest.
He would also improve the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, and start a new initiative that forgives $10,000 worth of undergraduate or graduate student debt for every year a borrower commits to national or community service. The cap would be five years.
Child care, free early education
Biden has pledged to limit and cap child care costs for many families. He will offer tax credits to help low- and middle-class families pay for child care. Parents earning less than $125,000 annually can get back up to half what they spend on child care for kids under age 13. The cap is $8,000 for one child or $16,000 for two or more children. And families making up to $400,000 can qualify for partial credits.
For children under the age of 5, Biden supports the Child Care for Working Families Act, in which a sliding scale of subsidies will be set up so less affluent families can pay what they can afford.
Additionally, no family with children under 5 and income less than 1.5 times the state average would pay more than 7% of their earnings for child care. That amounts to $45 a week at most for the average household according to Biden’s campaign site. Biden is proposing free preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds.
Contributing: Rebecca Morin, Karen Weintraub, Elizabeth Weise, Grace Hauck, Ledyard King, Joey Garrison, Nicholas Wu, Charisse Jones, Marco della Cav
Need Your Help Today. Your $1 can change life.