Opinion: Decision of Georgia voters still echoing through Washington

As the U.S. Senate voted this week for a bipartisan infrastructure package and then approved the outline of what could become a $3.5 trillion tax and spending package, the fingerprints of Georgia voters were all over those legislative victories for the White House.

Georgia voters helped elect Joe Biden as President last November, and then Georgia gave Democrats control of the U.S. Senate — and both houses of Congress — by defeating two incumbent GOP Senators in a January runoff election.

“It’s a good day,” Vice President Kamala Harris said on Capitol Hill after the infrastructure bill passed the Senate. “Elections matter.”

Nowhere is it more apparent that elections matter than in the U.S. Senate, where Georgia Senators Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock are a daily reminder for Republicans of how they flubbed the Georgia runoffs, losing a pair of U.S. Senate seats and giving Democrats control with the tie-breaking vote of the Vice President.

The 50-50 Senate and a five-seat majority in the House haven’t stopped Democrats from thinking big — and getting things done.

President Biden and Democratic leaders have now taken the opportunity to approve a $1.9 trillion COVID relief package — that could well be followed in coming weeks by the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill and a $3.5 trillion tax and spending package filled with Democratic Party priorities.

“Thank you, Georgia, for showing up to make this historical investment possible,” said Sen. Warnock.

“This is a huge deal,” Ossoff added.

Republicans gritted their teeth this week as Senate Democrats forged ahead.

“How in the world did that $1.2 trillion bill pass in the Senate 69 to 30?” asked U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, R-Greensboro after the Senate approved the bipartisan infrastructure bill, which Hice and other more conservative Republicans argue is a budget buster.

But Democrats saw the infrastructure vote as evidence to support President Biden’s efforts at bipartisanship — which voters in both parties always say they favor.

“When we build bridges across the aisle, we can get major things done for the American people,” said U.S. Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux, D-Suwannee.

Democrats in the House though are split on the next move, as more progressive Democrats want to put the bipartisan infrastructure bill on hold — waiting to pass it until the much larger $3.5 trillion reconciliation package is acted upon by Congress.

For the White House, this was another step towards approval of much of the Biden agenda.

“This is about us doing the real hard work of governing,” the President told reporters at the White House. “This is about democracy delivering for the people.”

Without victories by Ossoff and Warnock in January, it’s very doubtful Biden would be driving this kind of change.

And Georgia voters laid the groundwork for his legislative success story.

Jamie Dupree has covered national politics and the Congress from Washington, D.C. since the Reagan administration. His column appears weekly in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. For more, check out his Capitol Hill newsletter at http://jamiedupree.substack.com