Biden to campaign for Georgia Democrats amid hot US Senate races

Democratic Georgia US Senate candidate Jon Ossoff campaigns at Plaza Las Americas in Lilburn, Georgia, on Dec 5, 2020.
Democratic Georgia US Senate candidate Jon Ossoff campaigns at Plaza Las Americas in Lilburn, Georgia, on Dec 5, 2020.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - US President-elect Joe Biden next week will jump into the fiery US Senate campaigns in Georgia, two contests that could help push his legislative agenda through Congress if Democrats win both seats.

Mr Biden will head to Atlanta on Tuesday (Dec 15) to campaign for Democrats Jon Ossoff and Reverend Raphael Warnock ahead of the Jan 5 run-off election just weeks before he is set to be sworn into the presidency on Jan 20.

Democrats, who will maintain control of the US House of Representatives, need both Georgia seats to take control of the upper chamber with 50 seats of the Senate's 100 seats and Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris wielding the tie-breaking vote.

Mr Ossoff and Rev. Warnock are challenging current Republican US Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler after both lawmakers failed to obtain voter majorities in last month's US presidential election that saw Mr Biden defeat Republican President Donald Trump.

Mr Biden's narrow victory in Georgia has given Democrats hope despite Republican's 20-year hold on the state's Senate seats and gaining just one other Republican Senate seat in the Nov 3 election.

Mr Biden has already begun to lay out the priorities for his incoming administration, including combating the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and the related economic fallout, and tackling climate change. He has also called for reversing course on much of Mr Trump's immigration and foreign policy.

But Republican congressional leaders, including current Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, are likely to seek to block much of Mr Biden's agenda as they did under Democratic president Barack Obama, under whom Mr Biden served as vice-president.

Mr Trump, as well as his Vice-President Mike Pence, have travelled to Georgia several times in an effort to shore up the Republican vote in the state - an effort marred by Mr Trump's repeated unproven allegations of widespread voter fraud in the state, which this week recertified its results for Mr Biden.

Mr Pence travels to Augusta for a rally later on Thursday in his third visit to the state in recent weeks for the two Republican candidates.

Although there are some areas where the two parties could work together, including stimulus funding amid the novel coronavirus outbreak, infrastructure and trade, a Democratic-controlled Senate would improve Mr Biden's chances of passing legislation for more progressive parts of his agenda.

With major national issues hanging in the balance, the two races have quickly become nationalised with campaign donors and outside groups pouring money and resources into the southern US state that could top US$100 million (S$134 million) in overall spending.