Updated: 01/06/2021 11:47 PM EST

ATLANTA — Democrats have won the Senate majority after a remarkable pair of runoff victories in Georgia, giving the party control of Congress and smoothing the path for President-elect Joe Biden to enact the agenda he ran on in 2020.

Jon Ossoff’s and Raphael Warnock’s victories over Republicans David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler will bring the balance of power in the Senate to 50-50, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris able to cast tie-breaking votes once she is inaugurated later this month. The first of those will make Sen. Chuck Schumer the majority leader, relegating current Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to the minority after six years in charge of the Senate.

The results of the Senate flip could be felt immediately. Ossoff and Warnock campaigned vigorously on additional Covid-19 relief measures, while Senate GOP leaders had declined to commit to additional stimulus funding after recently approving a $900 billion package. The close divide in the Senate will still give outsize power to moderates in both parties, such as Republicans Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

But Biden’s key policy promises hinged on his party controlling the Senate, and he has room to move a significantly more ambitious agenda now than if McConnell retained power in the chamber. It will also give Biden a much simpler path to getting nominees through the chamber more quickly than he would have been able to under a Republican Senate.

Democrats’ wins in Georgia came on the heels of Biden’s narrow victory there in the November presidential election, cementing the state’s battleground status after decades of Republican dominance. The party’s 50-seat Senate caucus includes two senators apiece from both Georgia and Arizona, fast-changing states that were Republican strongholds until just the last few years and flipped narrowly to Biden in November. Victories in those states helped Democrats offset otherwise disappointing results in Senate races across the country in November, most of them in states where Biden also fell short.

Both Georgia Democrats made history with their victories. Warnock, a pastor at the famed Ebenezer Baptist Church, will be just the 11th Black senator in U.S. history and the first Black Democrat elected from the South. Ossoff, at age 33, will become the youngest Democratic senator since Biden won his seat in Delaware in 1972.

Early Wednesday morning, Warnock was declared the winner over Loeffler, an incumbent Republican senator, while in the afternoon Ossoff was declared the winner against Perdue, a first-term senator whose term expired this week.

“I can’t wait to get to work, to put my boots on, and represent the people’s concerns in the United States Senate,” Warnock told NBC’s “Today” show just hours after winning the state’s special election. Warnock is in office for the remaining two years of former Sen. Johnny Isakson’s term and will have to run for a full term in 2022.

Ossoff had already declared himself the winner in a video message, pledging to “serve all the people of the state” and to “give everything I’ve got to ensuring that Georgia’s interests are represented” in the Senate.

“It is with humility that I thank the people of Georgia for electing me to serve you in the United States Senate,” he said. “Thank you for the confidence and trust that you have placed in me.”

The two victories were extremely narrow and came on the heels of historic turnout in Georgia — higher than any election in the state’s history except the November presidential race. As of late Wednesday, Ossoff led Perdue by more than 35,000 votes, with a slightly larger than the 0.5 percentage point margin that would open the door to a recount, though not all votes have yet been tallied. Warnock’s lead was more than 70,000 votes, well outside the recount margin.

Republicans were already pinning the likely loss of Senate control on President Donald Trump, who consistently undermined the party’s messaging for the runoffs in the closing weeks of the campaign.

GOP officials were particularly frustrated with the president’s false claims of voter fraud in the November election and his unsubstantiated insistence that he won the state’s 16 electoral votes. Republicans worried that Trump’s rhetoric aimed at delegitimizing the electoral process and his attacks on GOP elected officials in the state would depress turnout among the party’s base.

Trump’s refusal to accept the election results also robbed Republicans of their most straightfoward message: that control of the Senate was up for grabs in Georgia. Perdue and Loeffler called themselves the last line of defense against socialism and warned against Democratic power in Washington, but they could not be entirely direct about it because it was only because of Harris’ potential tiebreaking vote as vice president-elect.

Democrats, earlier Wednesday, were jubilant at the likely result.

“It feels like a brand new day,” a triumphant Schumer (D-N.Y.) said. “For the first time in six years, Democrats will operate a majority in the United States Senate — and that will be very good for the American people.”

As the country experiences “one of the greatest crises we have ever faced,” he continued, “the Senate Democratic majority is committed to delivering the bold change and help Americans need and demand. Senate Democrats know America is hurting — help is on the way.”

And at a news conference on Capitol Hill, Schumer acknowledged that “we sure did not take the most direct path to be here” — a nod to the party’s failures in a few Senate races from November. He added that once Warnock and Ossoff are sworn in, his first priority will be to move a bill that would provide $2,000 stimulus checks to Americans.

In another interview with NPR, Warnock previewed his own legislative priorities, indicating that he would move quickly to help shepherd the passage of $2,000 stimulus checks to Americans.

Trump interjected that proposal into near-finalized coronavirus relief negotiations last month, but it was subsequently quashed by McConnell. The Georgia Democrats then campaigned on the bolstered direct payments in the closing days of their runoff races. The repeated effort to highlight the checks again forced Perdue and Loeffler to take sides during an intraparty fight and also made it more difficult for the two senators to proactively tout the more meager relief Congress had passed. Biden highlighted the direct relief to Americans during his final campaign stop in Georgia Monday.

“We ought to pass the $2,000 stimulus [checks],” Warnock said, arguing that “people need immediate relief.”

Although Loeffler has thus far refused to concede the race to Warnock, the senator-elect said Wednesday morning: “Oh, I expect to serve in just a few days.”

He added: “I can’t tell you how honored I am that the people of my home state — where I was born and raised and educated at Morehouse College — have decided to send me to the United States Senate to represent their concerns at this defining moment in American history.”

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