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Joint Session Of Congress Will Tally States' November Election Votes

NOEL KING, HOST:

It's a win in Georgia for Reverend Raphael Warnock, now senator-elect. He will be the first Black senator from the state. He defeated Republican Kelly Loeffler in one of two pivotal Senate races happening in Georgia. Earlier this morning, he declared victory.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

RAPHAEL WARNOCK: I am going to the Senate to work for all of Georgia no matter who you cast your vote for in this election.

KING: Now, the second race between Republican David Perdue and Democrat Jon Ossoff is too close to call at this point. If Ossoff wins, Democrats will control the Senate. Also happening today, the lawmakers currently in Congress will certify Joe Biden's presidential win. Even though there's no doubt about the results, some Republicans plan to object, meaning they will go on the record voting to overturn a democratic election - whew. NPR congressional correspondent Kelsey Snell is covering all of this. Good morning, Kelsey.

KELSEY SNELL, BYLINE: Good morning.

KING: So the races in Georgia were both close. Warnock pulled off a win. What do we learn from Georgia?

SNELL: You know, the polling showed really close races heading into these runoff elections. And Democrats work consistently on turnout, particularly on the early vote. You know, this race really depended on their voters showing up in huge numbers. And Republicans going into this worried that President Trump's messaging on election fraud and his fights with the Georgia secretary of state and, you know, his talk on Twitter would repress Republican turnout. And like you said, balance of the power in the Senate hangs on the remaining race between Ossoff and Perdue. If they wind up within a half a percent, that could possibly lead to a recount. That would mean the Senate can't really get underway until Georgia is finalized.

KING: What would a Democrat-controlled Senate mean for Joe Biden?

SNELL: You know, this last Senate seat really does change everything if Ossoff wins. There is a 50-50 Senate. And Vice President-elect Kamala Harris would break any tie. His win would mean Democrats control which bills get a vote, which committees consider things, basically how the Senate operates entirely. It's a significant power. But it also puts a lot of pressure on ideological divides within the Democratic Party. You know, moderate Democrats have shown a willingness to work across the aisle. And a narrow split could favor them. But progressives have a long list of priorities if Democrats were to recapture full control in Washington.

KING: OK. So a lot is still up in the air in Georgia but not with respect to the presidential election. Joe Biden did win. Congress today will certify his victory. How does that process work?

SNELL: Yeah. So the basics are that Vice President Mike Pence will preside over these proceedings alongside House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Republicans will have the chance to object to each state individually. And we expect that to start with Arizona. Texas Senator Ted Cruz and a group of others will start their objections there. And I'm told they plan to focus on calls for an electoral commission, not setting aside the election result. We hear that there are about six states that could be at issue. Though, it could be more, it could be less. And it could drag on all night because each objection opens them up to hours of debate. You know, Congress is expected to vote to certify the states with little trouble in the end. And we understand that Vice President Pence intends, as we are told, to follow the law as he presides.

KING: And it's worth noting that Republicans are split over this, with many of them saying to their colleagues, look; it's done.

SNELL: Yeah. About two dozen Senate Republicans are expected to join all of the Democrats in easily voting down these objections. Republicans are split. And, partially, it's about deciding who they are as a party in a post-Trump era. There are divisions about culture wars and policy fights and real deep concerns about extreme positions and conspiracy theories that have taken root in some elements of the party, including among some members of Congress. You know, supporters of President Trump have gathered in D.C. for days of protest. And much of the downtown core of the city is just shut down to traffic as a result. You know, the protests are based on Trump's false claims of election fraud, mixed with conspiracy theories and other misinformation. It is a scene that is so tense that D.C. officials have called in the National Guard to be on standby. So there's a lot of churn happening in Washington right now.

KING: Yeah, a lot, indeed. NPR congressional correspondent Kelsey Snell.

Thanks, Kelsey.

SNELL: Thanks so much for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.