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Joe Biden wins the White House, leaving Democrats with narrow path to Senate majority

Two Senate runoffs could lead to a Democratic majority

Former Vice President Joe Biden, seen here in Philadelphia with wife Jill, was called as the winner of the 2020 presidential election.
Former Vice President Joe Biden, seen here in Philadelphia with wife Jill, was called as the winner of the 2020 presidential election. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Former Vice President Joe Biden will be the 46th president of the United States, and there is a path to the narrowest of Senate majorities for Democrats with his victory.

As of Saturday, the former vice president has accumulated more than the necessary 270 electoral votes to defeat President Donald Trump, according to The Associated Press, which called the race moments after CNN and NBC News.

The calls came once it was clear that Biden was ahead of Trump in Pennsylvania, where mail-in ballots were being tabulated late in the process. Biden was also shown narrowly ahead in Arizona, Georgia and Nevada at the time the outlets called the election.

The Associated Press called Pennsylvania for Biden and running mate Kamala Harris shortly before 11:30 a.m. Saturday.

“I am honored and humbled by the trust the American people have placed in me and Vice President-elect Harris,” Biden said in a statement from his campaign. “With the campaign over, it’s time to put the anger and harsh rhetoric behind us and come together as a nation. It’s time for America to unite. And to heal.”

The Trump campaign released a statement attributed to the president disputing the result.

“We all know why Joe Biden is rushing to falsely pose as the winner, and why his media allies are trying so hard to help him: they don’t want the truth to be exposed. The simple fact is this election is far from over,” Trump said.

“Legal votes decide who is president, not the news media. Beginning Monday, our campaign will start prosecuting our case in court to ensure election laws are fully upheld and the rightful winner is seated,” he said.

[Biden-Harris win opens up California Senate seat]

Trump on Thursday said there was widespread fraud behind vote-counting after the polls closed, as what appeared to be leads for him in several states disappeared. Pennsylvania GOP Sen. Patrick J. Toomey called Trump’s Thursday press conference, “very disturbing.”

“I am not aware of any significant fraud, any significant wrongdoing,” Toomey told CBS News on Friday. “If it’s happened, then the evidence needs to come out, we need to go to court, we need to punish the wrongdoers, we need to redress whatever went wrong. But I’m not aware of any such evidence.”

Biden’s party will have a narrower-than-expected majority in the House, and the Senate — where Biden spent 36 years — will be still controlled by Republicans at least to open 2021. But a Democratic Senate majority remains on the table.

The election of Biden as president and Harris as vice president will give Harris the opportunity to functionally break a tie in Senate control if there’s a 50-50 split.

Both Senate seats in Georgia, currently held by Republicans David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, are headed for runoffs on Jan. 5. Perdue’s first full term in the Senate will expire at the beginning of January, while Loeffler will remain in her appointed seat at least until the result of the runoff.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is already gearing up for the double-runoff scenario.

“It makes a big difference who wins the two seats in Georgia. If the Democrats were to win the two seats, Chuck Schumer will be the majority leader and the significance of that job as we’ve discussed before, is the majority leader gets to decide what the agenda is, what you’re going to do, what you’re not going to do,” McConnell said Friday in Frankfort, Ky. “So, this is not yet decided in this overwhelmingly close national election. We had a very good day. Most pundits thought we were going to lose the Senate, but we have not yet actually secured the majority. That will be determined in Georgia.”

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., highlighted the Georgia races in his statement congratulating Biden and Harris.

“Joe Biden will win Georgia and so many other states because his agenda brings America together and helps working families. The best way to ensure that positive agenda can be carried out and deliver help to working families in Georgia and across the country is to elect Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff to the Senate,” Schumer said.

Assuming Republicans hold other uncalled races, the party would have a majority in the Senate at least until the new president and vice president take office, since Vice President Mike Pence will still be in office until the Jan. 20 inauguration.

Loeffler was always expected to face a runoff after a multi-candidate special election contest Tuesday resulted in her being the No. 2 vote-getter behind Rev. Raphael Warnock, a Democrat.

Loeffler survived a challenge for the second slot in the runoff from Republican Rep. Doug Collins. Trump avoided making an endorsement in that race during his appearances on the campaign trail in Georgia.

As with the presidential contest in Georgia, Perdue’s race against Jon Ossoff narrowed as more ballots were counted in the greater Atlanta metropolitan area. On Thursday, Perdue dipped below the 50 percent threshold needed to avoid a runoff.

The AP on Friday night called that there would be an overtime round for the seat currently occupied by Perdue.

The AP has not yet called the Senate races involving Republican incumbents Dan Sullivan of Alaska and Thom Tillis of North Carolina. A Democratic pickup in either of those states, where the incumbents currently lead, could make the math easier for Biden and the Democrats in the Senate.

The campaign of Al Gross, the independent challenger to Sullivan who would join the Democratic caucus, is continuing to argue that he has a path to victory in Alaska if mail-in ballots break in his favor, despite early returns showing him well behind.

In any case, a massive amount of organizing muscle and tens of millions of dollars from both Democrats and Republicans is sure to be headed to the Peach State. Fundraising emails have already been flying in Georgia and outside groups have announced plans for spending on advertising with Senate control potentially in the balance.

“There are still races to decide in Georgia where Democrats, if they won and if there are two runoffs, it would be 50-50 at that point. You would have Kamala Harris be the deciding vote. We’ll be investing heavily in Georgia, as you can tell,” AFL-CIO President Richard L. Trumka said Thursday.

Likewise, the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List’s partner political action committee announced an initial $4 million campaign in support of Loeffler and Perdue.

“We are going all in for pro-life champions Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue,” Mallory Quigley, national spokeswoman for the independent expenditure campaign of Women Speak Out PAC, said in a statement. “The outcomes of these races will determine the fate of the U.S. Senate and our nation. Without a pro-life Republican majority in the Senate, there would be no check on the pro-abortion Biden-Harris administration, Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi and the radical pro-abortion lobby bent on ditching the filibuster and packing the Court.”

With Senate control in the balance, questions that were part of the presidential campaign like the balance of power on the federal bench and the Biden legislative agenda, including his health care priorities, are likely to be central to the Georgia races.

Ellyn Ferguson contributed to this report.

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