Ossoff, Warnock join Senate Democrats in approving sweeping COVID-19 relief bill

WASHINGTON — The latest and highest-profile example of the difference Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock’s elections made in Congress happened Saturday afternoon when the U.S. Senate approved a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package.

Without the Georgia senators, Democrats would not have had enough votes to pass a package of that size or packed with as many of party leaders’ priorities. Now, Ossoff, Warnock and President Joe Biden are one step closer to accomplishing their top priority and making good on campaign promises for another round of stimulus checks.

“There is no question that the people of Georgia deserve a great deal of credit for what happened here today,” Warnock told reporters after the vote. “We simply would not be here had they not stood up in such a profound way in this historic election.”

Ossoff shared the same sentiment in his statement after the vote.

“We will crush COVID-19, recover economically, safely re-open our schools, and get our daily lives back — and we’ll do it thanks to Georgia voters,” he said.

The coronavirus relief measure measure passed 50-49 around noon with all Democrats in favor and all Republicans opposed. One GOP member from Alaska missed the vote. Senators had worked overnight and into the morning on a series of amendments.

The size and scope of the package is close to what Biden originally proposed. Republicans countered with a much smaller $600 billion offer. Among the differences in the GOP plan: no new funding for state and local governments. Georgia stands to receive $8.2 billion under the current plan.

Gov. Brian Kemp had argued that states like Georgia were being shortchanged by the formula used to divide up the cash. Democrats on Saturday rejected a GOP amendment that would have revised the formula but also restricted how local governments could use the money.

Ossoff and Warnock’s victories in January flipped the Senate. Democratic lawmakers were able to move forward with a new stimulus package without any GOP support by using the budget reconciliation process to remove the opportunity for filibuster.

While the vote was underway and passage was clear, Senate Leader Chuck Schumer walked over to Ossoff and Warnock to congratulate them. He could be seen on the TV feed giving them each a thumbs-up.

Democratic Party of Georgia Chairwoman Nikema Williams, who serves in the U.S. House, was also among those crediting the Peach State voters.

“Elections matter. Leadership matters,” she said in a Saturday statement. “Thanks to Georgia voters who showed up and elected Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, the American people are getting real relief to recover from this economic crisis and stop COVID-19 for good.”