For many Americans, the swearing in of Georgia Sens. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock is just as important as President Joe Biden
The moment Joe Biden was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States on January 20, a new era at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue also began to take shape — one that hinges upon unifying a country and culture that has been deeply divided over the last four years.
“Today, on this January day, my whole soul is in this: bringing America together, uniting our people, uniting our nation, and I ask every American to join me in this cause,” Biden said in his inauguration speech. “I know that speaking of unity can sound to some like a foolish fantasy to some these days. I know the forces that divide us are deep and they are real. But I also know they are not new.”
For many, the feelings of hope and change of 12 years past come to mind when Biden was first sworn into the White House on the precipice of the nation’s first Black president in Barack Obama. But this time is different.
Biden takes over from a president that did little to control a raging coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 400,000 Americans to date and crippled the country’s once thriving economy. Biden is also tasked with convincing over 75 million Americans who didn’t vote for him that he can lead the country in the right direction. And he’s not tasked with doing so alone, having the nation’s first female vice president, who is also a woman of Jamaican and South Asian descent in Kamala Harris alongside him.
But the next four years of Biden’s term will be measured less by historic moments and more by the differences in Americans’ lives that he’s able to change. For at least his first two years in office, Biden will be able to pass progressive legislation that could change the lives of the most vulnerable.
In addition to Biden taking office in the early afternoon on Wednesday, two Democrats from Georgia, Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock, were also sworn in to their official roles at U.S. Senators by Harris in one of her first official duties as vice president.
For many Americans, hopeful for individual improvements, Biden’s appointment alone would change little about their everyday lives. But Biden along with elected officials who work in their interests, lives can be transformed.
It was a full year of hitting the campaign trails across Georgia for both of the freshman senators that culminated into historic wins that cemented the Biden administration with the ability to pass progressive legislation that will define his first two years as president. The Senate’s two newest Democrats will give the chamber a 50-50 split, giving Harris the tie-breaking vote and effectively giving Democrats the majority.
The unity that Biden speaks of is that for some is prophetic and also attainable in one way or another. But without control of the Congress, Biden’s opportunity to bring about much change would be limited.
Ossoff has spent the last two weeks building relationships with his Republican and Democratic colleagues. During Biden’s inauguration, Ossoff admitted he was overcome with emotions.
“I really had to step back and reflect on what an extraordinary opportunity this is to do good -- and the obligation I have to make the most of it,” Ossoff told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution shortly before being sworn in. “That’s exactly what I was feeling up there. I can’t waste a minute that’s available to do good.”
Ossoff was sworn into office on Hebrew scripture that belonged to historic Atlanta Rabbi Jacob Rothschild, a civil rights activist and close ally of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Warnock, the senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist church, where Dr. King once preached, said he’s “ready to get work in the Senate on behalf of Georgians and our country” shortly after he was sworn in.
“I’m ready to start working in earnest with President Biden and Vice President Harris, along with the rest of Georgia’s congressional delegation, to deliver fair, swift and equitable solutions for Georgia to get beyond this public health crisis—including strengthening vaccine distribution and testing efforts, delivering additional direct payments and assistance for Georgia families, workers and small businesses, and more,” Warnock said in a statement. “At this inflection point in our nation’s history, we must also act urgently to protect the dignity of work, expand access to affordable health care, and heal together to ensure Georgia’s hardworking families have what they need to thrive.”
During the oath ceremony, Warnock used the Bible given to him by the congregation of Ebenezer Baptist Church when he became Senior Pastor.
With no prior experience between the pair, Ossoff and Warnock fall to 99 and 100 on the Senate seniority ranking respectively. But the work they promised during their runs for Senate, if successful, would have the most drastic impact on the lives of Americans.
Ossoff, 33, beat out 6-year incumbent Republican David Perdue for his seat, becoming the youngest member of the Senate since then-U.S. Senator Joe Biden and the first Jewish person to serve the state of Georgia in the U.S. Senate.
Ossoff also becomes the first Democrat sworn in to a full term in the U.S. Senate from Georgia since 1996.
Warnock, 51, also made history after defeating Republican Kelly Loeffler, and becoming Georgia’s first Black senator in the state’s history and only the 11th in the country ever.
But Ossoff and Warnock have promised so much respectively on coronavirus relief, access to healthcare, restoration of the Voting Rights Act and uniting Georgians, a historically conservative state, just as much as the country.
A vote late last week by Vice President Kamala Harris moves the needle closer to passing relief for millions of Americans in need.
“This vote moves Congress closer to passing much-needed COVID-19 relief, and it couldn’t come more quickly for Georgians who have been increasingly struggling due to this once-in-a-century pandemic and the economic crisis created in its wake,” Warnock said in a statement. “Passing this budget resolution is another step toward getting Georgians the federal aid they need to get through this challenging time—including direct relief for families and individuals, strengthened funding to help schools safely reopen, more assistance for small businesses and increased resources to get Georgia’s vaccine distribution efforts on track.”
Ossoff doubled down on this sentiment with a statement of his own.
“As I’ve spoken with mayors and local leaders across Georgia, it’s clear that Georgia’s smaller cities, counties, towns, and rural communities have not received the federal support they need and deserve,” Ossoff said in a statement. “I am fighting for funding to sustain local services and save jobs across Georgia, and will keep communities updated of progress as I fight for inclusion of funding for local communities in upcoming COVID relief legislation.”
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), the Senate’s new Majority Leader, has also laid out that passing additional COVID relief and picking up former President Trump’s impeachment trial are priorities of his.
Americans nationwide now want to be able to provide for their families.
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