Hours after speaking with Republican Senator Mitch McConnell, US President-elect Joe Biden urged Georgians on Tuesday to oust McConnell as majority leader in January 5 Senate runoffs.
In a speech that marked his return to the campaign trail a day after the Electoral College confirmed his November 3 election victory, Biden, a Democrat, laid out the stakes of the twin contests in no uncertain terms, warning that leaving the Senate in Republican hands could threaten much of his policy agenda.
"Are you ready to vote for two senators who know how to say yes and not just no?" Biden told an Atlanta drive-in rally, where attendees remained in their cars because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff are challenging Republican incumbents Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, respectively. A Democratic sweep would give the party control of both chambers of Congress as well as the White House, while even one Republican win would allow McConnell to block many of Biden's legislative goals.
Earlier on Tuesday, McConnell broke with Republican President Donald Trump and congratulated Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris for the first time from the Senate floor. Trump has refused to concede, even as his myriad efforts to overturn the results have met with failure.
McConnell and his top deputies pressed other Senate Republicans not to join with any House Republicans who may object to the election outcome when Congress meets on January 6 to ratify the decision.
Any such effort to challenge the results is all but certain to fail since it would require approval by both chambers, including the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives
Biden told reporters he and McConnell agreed to meet soon to discuss potential areas of cooperation.
During the campaign event, he made clear, however, the limits of that partnership, telling Georgians a Democratic Senate was necessary to make progress on coronavirus relief, funding for testing and vaccine distribution, aid to state and local governments, climate change and criminal justice.
He also attacked Loeffler and Perdue for embracing a lawsuit filed by Texas and supported by Trump that sought to invalidate the election results in Georgia and three other states that went for Biden. The US Supreme Court summarily dismissed the case on Friday.
"They fully embraced nullifying nearly 5 million Georgia votes," Biden said. "Maybe they think they represent Texas. Well if you want to do the bidding of Texas, you should be running in Texas, not Georgia."
Biden was congratulated on Tuesday by Russian President Vladimir Putin, a favorite of Trump's, and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, both of whom had held off on acknowledging Biden's victory.