While you were watching the insurrection, Democrats won the US Senate

US senators-elect Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock campaign at a rally ahead of runoff elections in Atlanta, Georgia. Reuters

Earlier this week, we told readers to brace for a hellish week in US politics. As we saw Wednesday, when armed rioters, goaded by President Trump, stormed the Capitol building in a bid to stop the certification of Joe Biden's election win, this week's events turned out to be as infernal as billed — and then some.

But while we were (understandably) distracted, something else very big happened: Democrats won the US Senate, a political development with massive implications for Biden's legislative agenda over the next four years.


Georgia's nail-biter runoff elections. In winning runoff elections for both of Georgia's Senate seats Tuesday, Democrats succeeded in turning a historically-red state blue. Reverend Raphael Warnock will now make history as the first Black person from Georgia — and the first Black Democrat from the once-segregationist South — to be sworn in as a US Senator. Jon Ossoff, meanwhile, will be the first Jewish senator from the South since the 1970s.

But the results from Georgia will reverberate far beyond the Peach State. Democrats will now have control of the White House and both chambers of Congress for the first time in a decade.

A boost for Biden. The incoming president will now have a better shot at getting (parts) of his legislative agenda through Congress. In addition, Biden's picks for federal judgeships and cabinet posts will encounter little obstruction. It's even possible that there will be a Supreme Court vacancy during Biden's term.

One of Biden's early objectives will be passing a more robust COVID relief package, something Democrats have pushed for against Republican stonewalling in the Senate. That legislation, which would dole out more generous stimulus checks — a move supported by 65 percent of American voters — could also position Democrats well ahead of what will be the usual cut-throat midterm elections in 2022.

But there are limits to what Biden can do. While Biden will now have a good chance of passing legislation on issues like health care and climate change, the Democrats' razor-thin Senate majority (it's a 50-50 tie with Vice President Kamala Harris casting a tie breaker vote) means that Biden will need the support of moderates on both sides of the aisle to get things done (all non-budgetary legislation requires at least 60 votes to pass in the Senate).

This means that Biden will not be able to fulfill the wishlist of progressive Democrats, whose support helped him clinch the presidency. Indeed, this is likely to deepen fissures within an already fractious Democratic party.

Progressives with massive followings, like Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Bernie Sanders, will likely use their soap boxes to push for broader reform than is achievable given Biden's own centrist leanings and the limitations of a one-vote majority in the Senate. (The Democrats' majority in the House, meanwhile, is one of the slimmest in history.)

Reaching across the aisle? The dust needs to settle before we reach any meaningful conclusions about whether Trump's incessant rallying against "rigged" elections over the past few months depressed Republican turnout in traditionally-red Georgia, or what Wednesday's insurrection means for the Republican party's post-Trump future.

What we do know is that Biden plans to reach across the aisle, because he's told us — many times. But will he be able to find a handful of senators from both parties who believe that real compromise and bipartisanship is important for the country's future? And how will all that be affected by this week's events?

Biden in a bind. In a time of extreme partisanship, Biden is in a tough spot: the only way he can govern is from the center, but the center is increasingly under assault from both sides of the aisle.

Ken Burns discusses Muhammad Ali's background and how the journey of boxing's greatest champion is just as relevant today—in sport, culture and beyond.

"He is speaking to us with a kind of force and clarity...that to me is just so enduring." - Ken Burns

No country in the Western Hemisphere is more closely associated with disaster and misery than the Caribbean nation of Haiti. Its latest upheaval centers on news that the country's top prosecutor wants Haiti's prime minister to answer questions about the murder of the president in July. Haiti is again locked in a power struggle among competing factions within its ruling elite.

Why is Haiti still so poor and disaster-prone?

More Show less

For Michael Chertoff, former US secretary of Homeland Security from 2005 to 2009, the fact that America has not experienced a single attack by foreign terrorists since 9/11 proves that the US was "successful" in its strategy to prevent terrorism. That "was not [an] accident and there was a deterrent effect to be honest — had we been lax, more would have tried." Although he admits the US government wasn't transparent enough about the intelligence it was collecting, Chertoff credits US intelligence agencies with helping to foil the plot to blow up airplanes mid-air from Heathrow to the US in 2006. The US mission in Iraq, or what came after was not clearly thought out, according to Michael Chertoff, who served as the Secretary of the US Department of Homeland Security under George W. Bush. The Iraq war made it difficult to focus on the US mission in Afghanistan and absorbed resources that could have been used more effectively elsewhere, he said.

Watch the full episode: Is America safer since 9/11?

Listen: In a frank interview on the GZERO World podcast, António Guterres, the United Nations Secretary-General, speaks with Ian Bremmer at the UN ahead of the annual General Assembly week. Guterres discusses COVID, climate, the US-China rift, and the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan, and does not mince words when it comes to the dire state of the world. "We are standing at the edge of an abyss," Guterres warns. COVID is "defeating" the global community and a climate catastrophe is all but assured without drastic action. Amidst this unprecedented peril, there remains a startling lack of trust among nations. And yet, there is still hope.

Subscribe to the GZERO World Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your preferred podcast platform to receive new episodes as soon as they're published.


"Men make history and not the other way around. In periods where there is no leadership, society stands still." — Harry S. Truman

The former US president's warning feels particularly prescient as world leaders prepare to gather at the 76th United National General Assembly in New York City, the first such in-person event in over 18 months. The importance of apt leadership in determining societies' ability to cope — and survive — has been on full display since COVID-19 enveloped the globe, decimating communities and killing some 4.5 million people.

More Show less

As the 76th UN General Assembly gets underway, dealing with the pandemic is still the top priority for world leaders. But for John Frank, vice president of UN Global Affairs at Microsoft, COVID is not the only major challenge the world faces today.

One of them — included in the UN Secretary-General's new Common Agenda for strong, inclusive pandemic recovery — is a different way to measure economic growth beyond the traditional productivity-led GDP model by taking more into account the cost of pollution, one of the main causes of climate change.

More Show less

For UN Secretary-General António Guterres, the pandemic has made the world even more divided than it was before COVID. That's especially true on climate, in his view, because rich and poor countries simply don't trust each other anymore. If we want COP26 to succeed, Guterres says we must rebuild that trust — or face the consequences of inaction. "If you are on the verge of an abyss, you must be careful about your next step." Watch his interview with Ian Bremmer on the latest episode of GZERO World.

"Pandemic" was the most used word of 2020. "Delta" looks set to inherit this year's title.

Vaccination rates are ticking up slowly. Governments aren't talking to each other enough. Parts of the world are back to normal, while others are still locked down.

Have we actually made any progress since the COVID-19 outbreak?


Unfinished Business: Is the World Really Building Back Better?

Wednesday, September 22nd, 11am ET/ 8am PT

Our speakers:

Special appearance by António Guterres, UN Secretary-General.

Visit gzeromedia.com/globalstage to watch on the day of the event.

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter, Signal

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal

UNGA 76: Vaccines, climate, crises

Coronavirus

UN Chief: Still time to avert climate “abyss”

GZERO World Clips

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal