Climate action at stake as Trump, Biden cap bitter Ga. races

Source: By Timothy Cama and Adam Aton, E&E News reporters • Posted: Wednesday, January 6, 2021

The nation’s leading Republican and Democratic figures held little back in stumping for their parties’ respective candidates in Georgia’s U.S. Senate runoffs, characterizing Tuesday’s elections as no less than decisions on the country’s future direction.

Both outgoing President Trump and President-elect Joe Biden held rallies in the Peach State on the last day before regular voting in the races, although early and mail-in votes started weeks ago.

Voters are deciding whether to send Republicans Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue back to the Senate, or to replace them with their Democratic opponents: the Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, respectively.

GOP wins would give the party a 52-48 majority in the upper chamber, while Democratic victories would lead to a 50-50 tie, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris available to break ties.

In their last-ditch pitches, Trump and Biden told voters they have the power to decide between an aggressive liberal agenda as promised by Biden and the Democrats — including his $2 trillion climate change plan that the GOP compares to the Green New Deal — and free-market policies.

“I don’t have to tell you that the stakes in this election could not be higher,” Trump told the crowd at his rally in Dalton, Ga. “The fate of our country is at stake. It’s in your hands.”

Trump said, “The radical Democrats are trying to capture Georgia’s Senate seats so they can wield unchecked, unrestrained, absolute power over every aspect of your lives.”

The president later said Ossoff “supports the largest tax hike in American history. If they get in — Warnock and Ossoff — if they get in, you’re going to have the largest tax increase that you’ve ever had. It’ll be the largest tax increase in American history, for what? The Green New Deal.

“Let’s rip down a building, because its windows are too big,” Trump continued, a common criticism he levels on the Green New Deal, which would not actually reduce the size or frequency of windows. “Let’s build a building with no windows. Among many other things.”

Trump spent most of his rally arguing that Biden won the Nov. 3 election fraudulently and that numerous swing states’ results — including Georgia’s — should be tossed out or flipped to him, despite having no evidence of such fraud and losing dozens of court cases on the matter.

But despite characterizing Loeffler and Perdue as the last line to prevent radical liberal policies, Trump did not concede his own loss and continues to argue that he will be in office past Inauguration Day.

Biden

Biden briefly mentioned climate and other issues during last night’s rally, but he dropped most of his standard policy stump speech and — like Warnock and Ossoff — campaigned hardest on the $2,000 pandemic relief checks under consideration by Congress.

“If you send Jon and the reverend to Washington, those $2,000 checks will go out the door, restoring hope and decency and honor for so many people who are struggling right now,” Biden said.

“And if you send Sens. Perdue and Loeffler back to Washington, those checks will never get there,” said the former vice president. “It’s just that simple.”

Biden also urged people who’ve already voted to continue “safely knocking on doors” — a reversal from the general election, when the Biden campaign nixed door knocking to protect volunteer health and project responsibility.

Many progressive organizers now think it was a tactical mistake to cede the field to Republican canvassers. Climate activist groups like the Sunrise Movement have spent months on the ground in Georgia doing outreach and mobilization. Biden’s comments suggest the Democratic establishment has reached a similar conclusion about in-person campaigning.

In the same rally, Warnock used his biography to argue that he’d be a voice for “ordinary folks” rather than corporate interests. And Ossoff outlined a vision of what flipping the Senate could mean for voters.

“We will pass the most ambitious jobs, infrastructure and recovery program in U.S. history,” Ossoff said.

“We’ll upgrade transit and transportation to connect every county here in metro Atlanta, to connect every city, every corner of this state, and to connect Georgia with the rest of the Southeast,” he said. “We will create tens of thousands of jobs in clean and renewable energy, saving our planet while making America the No. 1 producer of clean energy in the world and Georgia the No. 1 producer of clean energy in the South.”

Climate activists

Climate activists have put unprecedented resources into the Georgia races. The League of Conservation Voters Victory Fund has spent more than $1.1 million, with a focus on get-out-the-vote efforts, and the youth-focused Sunrise Movement has phone banked with thousands of voters.

“I think it is the most important vote in our generation for young people,” Shante Wolfe, Sunrise’s electoral politics director, told CNN yesterday.

“This election signals whether or not the light that shines in America will continue to be the light home for us, or do we need to create our own path to make sure we get the necessities we need if the Senate does not go in our favor?”

The runoffs have put the Senate at somewhat of a standstill. Without knowing which party will have the majority, leaders, committees and lawmakers have been resistant to make any major decisions or schedule events before learning the races’ outcomes.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) have agreed that no bills would be introduced until Jan. 20.

And while both parties have picked their leaders for committees, the panels haven’t moved to consider any of Biden’s Cabinet nominees, a process that has started well before Inauguration Day for previous presidents.