OPINION: It’s not just Biden’s first 100 days. It’s Ossoff and Warnock’s, too

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

Call it a victory lap, call it a thank you note, call it a downpayment on keeping the Senate in Democratic hands next year.

But no matter how you describe President Joe Biden’s visit to Atlanta on Thursday, he picked Georgia as the backdrop to mark his 100th day in office for a very simple reason.

Joe Biden didn’t need Georgia to win, but he did need Georgia to govern. And that’s exactly what he got when U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock beat then-Sen. Kelly Loeffler and Jon Ossoff edged former Sen. David Perdue in Georgia’s dramatic runoff elections in January.

Like Biden, Warnock and Ossoff, too, are marking their 100th days in office since all three Democrats were sworn into office on the same January day.

In the months that have followed, former President Donald Trump has retreated to his Mar-A-Lago Club in Florida and Biden has hit the gas on his agenda.

And Ossoff and Warnock have quickly risen in visibility beyond the status of previous senators who were 99th and 100th in seniority — now seen as the “majority makers” for Democrats around the country.

It’s not often that the road not taken is so obvious. But it’s easy to imagine what would, or would not, have happened had Perdue won the 50th seat instead of Ossoff, or if Kelly Loeffler had defeated Warnock.

Going into the runoffs, congressional scholar Norm Ornstein told me that he saw the difference for Biden between having a Democratic Senate and a Republican Senate “as close to a night-and-day contrast as you can get.”

Ornstein wasn’t the only one who understood how crucial a Democratic Senate would be for Biden. More than $800 million flooded into the state ahead of the runoffs. Biden and Trump both made multiple visits. The need to win was palpable.

Without Ossoff and Warnock in the Senate, Biden knew he would have had Sen. Mitch McConnell as Senate Majority Leader, instead of New York’s Sen. Chuck Schumer.

And instead of the reliable “yes... and” that he’s mostly gotten from Congress, Biden mostly certainly would have gotten round after round of “no, no, and…..no.”

Once sworn into office, Warnock and Ossoff have, indeed, been reliable Democratic votes for Biden. Of the 10 bills Biden has signed into law, Ossoff and Warnock have supported all 10.

Digging even deeper, Ossoff and Warnock have voted with Democrats on all of the 162 roll call votes they’ve cast so far. And of the 65 times an issue was decided by a two-vote margin or less, the Georgia senators have provided that margin of victory, or in the case of a Republican amendment, the margin of defeat.

Among the tightest votes were several Biden cabinet appointments and nominees, including Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Bacerra, who narrowly passed the Senate on a vote of 50-49.

Most importantly for Biden, the Georgia senators also provided the margin to pass the $1.9 trillion COVID relief package known as the American Recovery Act. With Warnock and Ossoff, Democrats also avoided filibuster rules for the legislation and turned back multiple GOP amendments that could have doomed the package without their help.

Supporting the Biden agenda has helped the two senators get their goals accomplished, too.

A key promise each made on the campaign trail was to speed $2000 payments to Americans as the lockdowns stretched out and the economy sputtered.

In addition to $1,400 relief checks for most Georgians, the law also added a major expansion of the child tax credit, freed up additional unemployment benefits and loans for small businesses,

It will also bring $4.25 billion to Georgia schools for summer schools, and more for Georgia pre-Ks and colleges. Georgia will also get an additional $8 trillion for state and local governments, including direct relief to local governments that Ossoff pushed for.

Warnock was able to add language to the bill for farmers of color and has taken a lead role in the Senate, and with Biden, on voting rights.

He and Ossoff both appealed to Biden to keep the SK innovation battery factory in Commerce, long a project of Gov. Brian Kemp’s, on track after a trade dispute threatened to blow the deal up.

It hasn’t been all green lights for Biden in the Senate, of course. West Virginia’s Sen. Joe Manchin has tapped the brakes plenty of times. Biden’s first choice for the director of the Office of Management and Budget didn’t even get a vote.

But without Ossoff and Warnock in the Senate, Biden would need two Republicans to break ranks on every measure that has so far gotten a party-line vote.

Crucially, without the Georgia senators, Biden also would have little input into what gets a vote in the first place.

Instead of confirmations, he would be looking at investigations. Have you noticed we’ve heard almost nothing about Hunter Biden since January, except from Hunter Biden? Or Burisma? Or a top-to-bottom investigation into Georgia’s or Arizona’s vote counts that Donald Trump demanded?

Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin would have been only too ready to deliver.

Republicans, especially in the House, are confident that all of this Georgia-powered legislative freedom for the Biden administration is giving the Democrats just enough rope to hang themselves.

The Republican National Committee has been blasting out press releases about the “Biden Border Crisis” and flagging the price tag of Biden’s spending, which at $2 trillion and counting is considerable.

But it’s still a fraction of the $7.8 trillion increase in the national debt over his four years.

Nobody’s first term in office will be solely determined by their first 100 days. But Biden has plenty of reasons to thank the Georgia senators for so far. The feelings, and the benefits, are mutual.