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.

We pay little attention to the waves of the sea, yet they are the greatest unused source of renewable energy in the world. Meet ISWEC and Power Buoy, two interesting new technologies used to harness this energy. Learn more about the extraordinary power of waves in this episode of Eni's Energy Shot series, where we investigate interesting facts and trends about energy.

Ukraine is once again in a tough spot.

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Listen: Soumya Swaminathan calls for a massive increase in the global vaccine supply in order to prevent the rise of more dangerous and vaccine-evading super-variants, in a wide-ranging interview with Ian Bremmer on the GZERO World podcast. Dr. Swaminathan, Chief Scientist at the World Health Organization, argues that vaccine nationalism, where countries prioritize their own citizens ahead of the rest of the world, will only prolong the pandemic because a virus does not stop at any national border. She also weighs in on a controversial new WHO report investigating the origins of COVID-19 and discusses when she thinks the world's children should get vaccinated. In addition, she suggests we may see alternative vaccine forms, like nasal sprays, sooner than we think.

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.

India, the world's third largest emitter of carbon dioxide, is one of the countries worst affected by climate change. But it takes issue with those now asking it to clean up its act. Why, the Indians ask, should we give up our right to get rich by burning fossil fuels like you developed economies have done for generations?

That's precisely the message that India's energy minister had for the US and other wealthy nations at a recent Zoom summit after they pressured Delhi to set a future deadline for net zero emissions. For India, he explained, such targets are "pie in the sky" aspirations that do little to address the climate crisis the country faces right now.

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The Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics are nearly a year away, but discussion of a potential boycott is already stoking tensions on both sides of the US-China relationship. Officials in Washington and other Western capitals are coming under mounting pressure from activists to respond to human rights abuses in China. An increasingly assertive Beijing, meanwhile, vigorously rejects any foreign criticism of what it regards as internal issues.

The last time the US boycotted an Olympics was in 1980, when it withdrew from the Summer Olympics in Moscow to protest the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan. Four years later, the Soviet Union repaid in kind by skipping the Games in Los Angeles. Would the US and its allies do something like that again? And how might China respond? Eurasia Group analysts Neil Thomas and Allison Sherlock explain the drivers of the boycott movement and its possible fallout.

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In two weeks, US President Joe Biden will be hosting an online "climate summit" to mark Earth Day. He'll ask China and India to sign up to America's ambitious new plan to slow down climate change. Will they go for it? China is the world's largest polluter, but Beijing is rolling out solar and wind power as fast as it's burning coal. India, meanwhile, is loathe to pick up the slack for rich countries that polluted their way to wealth and now want everyone else to agree to emissions cuts. No matter what happens, any successful plan to reduce global emissions will require buy-in from these three nations which, along with the European Union, account for almost 60 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions nowadays. Here's a look at emissions by the world's top polluters compared to everyone else over the last two decades.

Two big Andean elections: This Sunday, Ecuadorians go to the polls for the second time this year in a close presidential runoff, while Peruvians will vote in the first round of their own presidential election. In Ecuador, the matchup is between the leftwing-populist frontrunner Andrés Arauz, who has pledged to blow up the country's IMF agreements and boost national oil production, and Guillermo Lasso, a pro-business candidate who is seen as the choice of continuity with the current market-friendly government. Voter abstention is likely to be high, and the final result could very well be close and contested in a polarized country that was struggling with massive social unrest even before the pandemic struck. Meanwhile in Peru — which recently went through three presidents in the space of a week — the candidate field is hugely fragmented. Those with a decent shot to make it to the second round include "change" candidates like the leftist former lawmakers Yohny Lescano and Verónica Mendoza, as well as the prominent neoliberal economist Hernando De Soto, who has recently risen in the polls. Former soccer star George Forsyth is also in the mix, as is Keiko Fujimori, daughter of authoritarian former president Alberto Fujimori. Both of this Sunday's elections will serve as a kind of bellwether for the political mood in a region that has been devastated by the public health and economic impact of the pandemic.

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Nasal sprays, oral vaccines, and other new types of COVID-19 vaccines may be ready soon, according to Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, Chief Scientist at the World Health Organization. She previews some of these needle-less vaccines and notes that the possibility of being able to store vaccines at room temperature could be a game-changer for vaccinating poorer nations. The advantage of nasal sprays, she explains, is that they "would generate local mucosal immunity in addition to systemic immunity." Dr. Swaminathan's conversation with Ian Bremmer is featured on the latest episode of GZERO World, airing on US public television stations starting this Friday, April 9. Check local listings.

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