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South Carolina’s Jaime Harrison picked as new Democratic National Committee chair

President-elect Joe Biden also names Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and Texas U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela as vice chairs

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com

WASHINGTON (CFP) — Two months after coming up short in a $130-million quest to flip a U.S. Senate seat in South Carolina, Jaime Harrison has been picked by President-elect Joe Biden to be the next chair of the Democratic National Committee.

Biden also named Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela of Texas as two of four vice chairs of the party, putting Southerners in three key positions atop a party that made some headway in 2020 after struggling for relevance in the region.

Jaime Harrison

In a statement, Biden said the new team leaders “represent the very best of the Democratic Party.”

“We need to elect Democrats across our country and up and down the ballot. To do that is going to take tireless leadership committed to strengthening Democratic infrastructure across our states,” he said. “I know they will get the job done.”

Reacting to his selection on Twitter, Harrison said he was “humbled and excited” by his selection.

“Together, we’ll organize everywhere, invest in state parties, expand the map, and elect Democrats who will be champions for the working people of this country,” he said.

While the selections of Harrison, Bottoms and Vela will still have to be ratified by the full national committee, Democrats have traditionally allowed incoming presidents to have full control of party leadership.

Harrison, 44, a former aide to House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, served as chair of the Palmetto State’s Democratic Party from 2013 to 2017, before making an unsuccessful run for national DNC chair.

Last year, he ran against Republican U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham, raising and spending more than $130 million on the race by building a nationwide fundraising network. But despite some polling showing the race to be close, Graham beat him by more than 10 points in November.

Biden’s selection of Harrison had been expected after Clyburn, a key backer of Biden during last year’s South Carolina primary, endorsed his candidacy.

Bottoms, in her first term as mayor, will lead the DNC’s efforts in civic engagement and voter protection. She had also been a Biden surrogate during the campaign and was given consideration as his vice presidential running mate.

Vela, who represents the Rio Grande Valley in Congress, was another early Biden backer. He had reportedly been considered for a post in the new Cabinet but was not selected.

Neither Bottoms or Vela will have to give up their elected post to serve as DNC vice chairs.

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Republican South Carolina U.S. Rep. Tom Rice votes for impeachment

Rice is only Southern GOP member to support removing President Donald Trump over last week’s Capitol riot

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

WASHINGTON (CFP) — In a last-minute decision that surprised constituents and colleagues alike, U.S. Rep. Tom Rice of South Carolina joined a group 10 Republicans who voted with Democrats to impeach President Donald Trump.

U.S. Rep. Tom Rice, R-South Carolina

Rice was the only one of the 99 Southern Republicans in the House who supported a resolution accusing Trump of inciting insurrection in last week’s deadly riot by his supporters in the Capitol.

“I have backed this President through thick and thin for four years,” Rice said in a statement explaining his vote. “I campaigned for him and voted for him twice. But, this utter failure is inexcusable.”

Rice hit Trump for not doing more to quell the violence in Capitol, both while it was happening and in the days since.

“Once the violence began, when the Capitol was under siege, when the Capitol Police were being beaten and killed, and when the Vice President and the Congress were being locked down, the President was watching and tweeted about the Vice President’s lack of courage,” Rice said.

“The President has not addressed the nation to ask for calm. He has not visited the injured and grieving. He has not offered condolences. Yesterday in a press briefing at the border, he said his comments were ‘perfectly appropriate.'”

Rice had not signaled, either to his constituents or the news media, that he was going to support impeachment before casting his vote on the House floor Wednesday.

It came a week after Rice joined with the rest of the Palmetto State’s Republican delegation to object to the counting of President-elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College win — a vote that came after a mob sacked the Capitol, leaving five people dead.

Rice’s decision drew immediate fire from South Carolina’s GOP state chair, Drew McKissick, who said “to say I’m severely disappointed in Congressman Tom Rice would be an understatement.”

Rice, 63, from Myrtle Beach, has represented South Carolina’s 7th District since 2013. Prior to coming to Congress, he was a tax lawyer.

The district takes in the eastern side of the state along the North Carolina border, including Florence and Myrtle Beach.

The impeachment resolution passed by a vote of 232-197, making Trump the only president to be impeached twice.

While just 10 Republicans supported impeachment, that was the largest number of lawmakers from a president’s own party to ever support removal.

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5 Southern senators, 79 U.S. House members support challenge to electoral vote count

Unsuccessful move to overturn Joe Biden’s win interrupted by mob insurrection at U.S. Capitol

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

WASHINGTON (CFP) — Despite an afternoon of violence that left four people dead and lawmakers running for cover, five Southern Republican U.S. senators and 79 of the region’s GOP U.S. House members persisted in supporting objections to President-elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College win that were overwhelmingly defeated once order was restored.

All of the Republican House members representing Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Virginia supported at least one of the objections to the counts of Biden’s win. By contrast, only a single member from both Kentucky and Arkansas voted yes.

Joint sessions of Congress counts electoral vote (From C-SPAN)

Five Southern senators voted in favor of at least one of the objections filed to electoral vote results from Arizona and Pennsylvania, two swing states Biden flipped in November: Ted Cruz of Texas, John Kennedy of Louisiana, Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi, Rick Scott of Florida and Tommy Tuberville of Alabama, who just took his seat on Sunday.

Cruz, the Senate sponsor of the Arizona challenge, voting in favor of objections to both states, along with Hyde-Smith and Tuberville. Kennedy only objected to Arizona, while Scott only objected to Pennsylvania.

The remaining 22 Southern Republican senators opposed both challenges, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who had warned earlier in the day that challenging the will of voters would plunge American democracy into a “death spiral,” and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, one of President Donald Trump’s most fervent supporters, who told his fellow senators that “enough is enough.”

“When it’s over, it is over,” Graham said. “[Biden] won. He’s the legitimate president of the United States.”

Kelly Loeffler of Georgia, who had previously announced that she would support objections to the electoral vote, took the Senate floor to say that she changed her mind after Wednesday’s violent incursion into the Capitol. Her decision meant that a challenge to Georgia’s electoral votes failed for lack of a Senate sponsor.

Loeffler was defeated in Tuesday’s Senate runoff in Georgia, which means her votes on the Electoral College disputes could be among her last as a senator.

In the House, a majority of the Republican caucus voted to sustain the objections, including 79 out of 99 Southern members, a group that included the top-ranking Southerner, Minority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana.

However, among Kentucky’s five Republican members, only one, Hal Rogers, supported the objections. The rest of the delegation joined with McConnell and the Bluegrass State’s other senator, Rand Paul, in voting no: James Comer, Brett Guthrie, Thomas Massie and Andy Barr.

In the Arkansas delegation, only Rick Crawford supported the objections, which were opposed by both senators, Tom Cotton and John Boozman. French Smith, Bruce Westerman and Steve Womack all voted no.

Alone among their state Republican delegations in opposing the objections were Nancy Mace of South Carolina, who was elected in November to represent Charleston and the Low Country, and David McKinley of West Virginia.

Other Southern Republican House members who opposed the objections to Biden’s electoral vote count were Vern Buchanan and Michael Walz of Florida; Austin Scott and Drew Ferguson of Georgia; Patrick McHenry of NC; and Dan Crenshaw, Tony Gonzales, Michael McCaul, Chip Roy and Van Taylor of Texas.

Three members — Kay Granger and Kevin Brady of Texas and Maria Elvira Salazar of Florida — were in COVID-19 quarantine and did not vote.

Here is the list of Southern House members supporting the Electoral College objections, by state:

Alabama: Aderholt, Brooks, Carl, Moore, Palmer, Rogers
Arkansas: Crawford
Florida: Cammack, Diaz-Balart, Donalds, Dunn, Franklin, Gaetz, Giménez, Mast, Posey, Rutherford, Steube, Webster
Georgia: Allen, Carter, Clyde, Greene, Hice, Loudermilk
Louisiana: Higgins, Graves, Johnson, Scalise
Kentucky: Rogers
Mississippi: Guest, Kelly, Palazzo
North Carolina: Bishop, Budd, Cawthorn, Foxx, Hudson, Murphy, Rouzer
Oklahoma: Bice, Cole, Horn, Lucas, Mullin
South Carolina: Duncan, Norman, Rice, Timmons, Wilson
Tennessee: Burchett, DesJarlais, Fleischmann, Green, Harshbarger, Kustoff, Rose
Texas: Arrington, Babin, Burgess, Carter, Cloud, Fallon, Gohmert, Gooden, Jackson, Nehls, Pfluger, Sessions, Weber, Williams, Wright
Virginia: Cline, Good, Griffith, Wittmann
West Virginia: Miller, Mooney

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell makes impassioned plea against Electoral College vote challenge

McConnell says overturning will of voters would put American democracy in a “death spiral”

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com

WASHINGTON (CFP) — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky took to the Senate floor Wednesday to make a somber and impassioned plea against overturning President-elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College win, saying “nothing before us proves illegality anywhere near the massive scale” needed to overturn the election.

Video of McConnell’s speech at end of story

McConnell speaks against Electoral College challenge on Senate floor

“We cannot simply declare ourselves a national board of elections on steroids,” McConnell said. “If this election were overturned by mere allegations from the losing side, our democracy would enter a death spiral.”

“We’d never see the whole nation accept an election again. Every four years it would be a scramble for power at any cost.”

McConnell also decried the current level of contention in American politics, saying “we cannot keep drifting apart into two separate tribes with a separate set of facts and separate reality, with nothing in common except our hostility toward each other and distrust for the few national institutions that we all still share.”

McConnell’s remarks came less than an hour before the Senate had to be evacuated after pro-Trump protestors breached the Capitol.

In words that proved prescient, McConnell said, “I will not pretend such a vote will be a harmless protest gesture while relying on others to do the right thing.”

McConnell said he supported President Donald Trump’s right to use the legal system to challenge the election results, “but over and over, courts rejected these claims, including all-star judges whom the president himself has nominated.”

His remarks came on the day after Democrats appear to have won two U.S. Senate runoff races in Georgia, which will cost him his post as majority leader once both of those votes are confirmed.

McConnell, who was re-elected in November to a seventh term, called Wednesday’s vote “the most important vote I’ve ever cast” during his 36 years as a senator.

His remarks came during a debate triggered when Trump supporters in the House objected to certifying Arizona’s electoral votes and were joined by Texas Republican U.S. Senator Ted Cruz.

The session in both houses was suspended after protestors breached security and entered the U.S. Capitol building.

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The night the GOP’s lights went out in Georgia: Democrats gain Senate control

Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff defeat Republican U.S. Senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

ATLANTA (CFP) — Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff won Georgia’s two hotly contested U.S. Senate runoffs Tuesday, handing Democrats control of the U.S. Senate and removing a significant impediment to President-elect Joe Biden’s legislative agenda.

In the last act of a long and contentious political season, Warnock — the senior pastor of Atlanta’s iconic Ebenezer Baptist Church who was making his political debut — defeated Republican U.S. Senator Kelly Loeffler, leading by about 564,000 votes, or margin of 50.3% to 49.3%.

Ossoff defeated U.S. Senator David Perdue by a smaller 25,000-vote margin, or 50.3% to 49.7%, a sweep of both races in a state that had not elected a Democrat to the Senate in 20 years.

Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, D-Georgia

In a victory video posted on his campaign website, Warnock said “we were told that we couldn’t win this election, but tonight, we proved that with hope, hard work and the people by our side, anything is possible.”

“I am going to the Senate to work for all of the people of Georgia, no matter who you cast your vote for in this election.”

Warnock will make history as the first African American ever elected to the U.S. Senate from Georgia.

Loeffler, the multimillionaire Atlanta businesswoman appointed to the Senate last year by Republican Governor Brian Kemp, did not concede during brief remarks to her supporters, who gathered in person Tuesday night despite the COVID-19 pandemic: “We have a path to victory, and we’re staying on it.”

In a video post Wednesday morning, Ossoff, who narrowly lost a U.S. House race in 2017, thanked supporters and said he would focus on fighting the coronavirus pandemic once he gets to Washington.

“This campaign has been about health and jobs and justice for the people of this state,” said Ossoff, who, at 33, will become the youngest person to serve in the Senate in the last 40 years. “They will be my guiding principles as I serve this state in the U.S. Senate.”

Perdue’s campaign released a statement saying that “this exceptionally close election that will require time and transparency to be certain the results are fair and accurate.”

“We will mobilize every available resource and exhaust every legal recourse to ensure all legally cast ballots are counted,” the statement said. “We believe in the end, Senator Perdue will be victorious.”

However, Ossoff’s margin was more than twice as large as Biden’s win in November, which held up through two recounts.

Perdue, who was seeking a second term, had been in quarantine and off the campaign trail in the closing days of the race after a campaign staffer tested positive for COVID-19.

Tuesday’s results are yet another electoral rebuke to President Donald Trump, who lost Georgia in November and roiled the Senate runoffs with unsubstantiated claims of fraud and biting criticism of Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who refused to validate Trump’s fraud allegations.

The Senate will be split 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris breaking the tie to give Democrats control.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky will lose his leadership perch, although he will remain as minority leader in a Senate divided 50-50.

With Senate control on the line, the four candidates and outside groups poured more than $882 million into the races — about $83 for every man, woman and child in the state.

The unprecedented spectacle of two Senate runoff elections on the same day in Georgia was the result of a Senate vacancy and an unusual feature of state law that requires candidates in general elections to secure an outright majority to win.

Loeffler was appointed to the Senate last year by Kemp to replace Johnny Isakson, who retired due to ill health. That triggered a special election to fill the two remaining years in Isakson’s turn, which featured an all-party contest in November in which the top two vote-getters — Warnock and Loeffler — won spots in a runoff.

Perdue defeated Ossoff in November’s vote but narrowly missed winning an outright majority, which Georgia law uniquely requires. So the two men faced each other again Tuesday.

With the Democratic victories in Georgia, the number of senators representing Southern states will rise from three to five, compared with 23 Republicans.

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