President-Elect Joe Biden made his last push in Georgia Monday evening, speaking to a sea of cars in Atlanta on behalf of Democratic Senate hopefuls Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock hours before polls open on Tuesday.
He staked much of his argument for the candidates on COVID-19 relief, specifically on the $2,000 stimulus checks that President Donald Trump decided he wanted during the eleventh-hour of negotiations over Congress’ aid package that passed in late December.
“Their election will put an end to the block in Washington on that $2,000 stimulus check,” Biden said of the Democratic candidates, adding later: “If you send Perdue and Loeffler back to Washington, those checks won’t get there.”
Trump’s intervention threw Republicans into chaos, as they were suddenly caught between their previous support for smaller checks, and the possibility of rebuffing the President and taking a politically unpopular posture against needed money for Americans. As a caucus, Republicans have balked at the amount Democrats have tried to spend on COVID-19 relief, and have accordingly torpedoed various proposals.
The situation was particularly fraught for Sens. David Perdue (R-GA) and Kelly Loeffler (R-GA), both of whom eventually came out in support of the checks after days of being hammered by the Georgia Democrats.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) circumnavigated the difficulty by stuffing the $2,000 checks into a package with poison pills for Democrats: the removal of liability protection for social media companies and an election security task force that would likely bolster Trump’s conspiracy theories. That way, Loeffler and Perdue could endorse the bigger checks without risking the possibility that they’d ever actually see the light of day.
Biden served up the issue, gifted by Trump, as an easy economic appeal.
“This debate over $2,000 isn’t some abstract debate in Washington,” he said. “This is about real lives. Your lives.”
“And if you’re like millions of Americans all across this country, you need the money,” he added. “You need the help. And you need it now.”
He also obliquely addressed Trump’s attempts to upend the November election results and claim victory for himself, and the Republicans who are enabling the anti-democratic power grab. Over the weekend, Trump called Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to try to coerce him to overturn the state’s election results. Both Ossoff and Warnock condemned Trump’s behavior; Loeffler dodged questions about it and Perdue criticized Raffensperger for recording the conversation.
“In America, as our opposition friends are finding out, all power flows from the people,” Biden said. “Politicians cannot, assert, take, or seize power. Power has to be given, granted — by the American people.”