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OpinionColumnistsDan Janison

Joe Biden, his party and a post-Trump GOP will shape the actual D.C. drama to come

President-elect Joe Biden in Atlanta on Monday.

President-elect Joe Biden in Atlanta on Monday. Credit: EPA/Edward M. Pio Roda

Sometimes President Donald Trump sounds like one of those disturbed people who begins a strange story in the middle. On Monday, he began one of his plaintive rants at a campaign rally for incumbent U.S. senators on the eve of their runoff election by saying: "Hello Georgia. By the way, there's no way we lost Georgia. There's no way."

This got cheers from the faithful, which clearly gratified the sore loser onstage.

After Trump's circus of denying his election loss ends or moves to the next locale, and after a new president and Congress take office, Washington drama most likely will focus on how the people's government works or does not work in a post-Trump landscape.

The possibilities are not unlimited.

Emerging from Tuesday's pair of close Senate runoffs in Georgia, the chamber looked likely to end up 50-50 Democratic and Republican, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris a potential tiebreaker after she's sworn in.

Democrat Ralph Warnock unseated Sen. Kelly Loeffler, as declared early Wednesday, Hours later, GOP Sen. David Perdue still had a chance to survive, with the tally too close to call. But Democrat Jon Ossoff declared victory shortly before 8 a.m. Wednesday.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell stood to become the nation's top Republican elected official. McConnell (R-Ky.) would no longer have an eager signatory in the White House for legislation desired by his caucus. But he also wouldn't need to mollify a dysfunctional executive, and he could begin exercising power by obstructing Democratic programs and appointments, as he did under former President Barack Obama.

Even when both houses of Congress belonged to Republicans, the majority rejected some of Trump's most screamed-for priorities. The southern border wall was treated as a joke and never had a chance of full funding. No promised sweeping health care bill was ever agreed on to replace the Obamacare that Republicans cursed. Most foreign dealings, policies and treaties under Trump didn't change so much as drift and lapse.

From President-elect Joe Biden's point of view, the Senate could pose a problem, even given his minimal razor-thin party control. But it also could provide an alibi if Biden fails to enact strong policies that his party's base wants on the environment, coronavirus relief, tuition relief, medical insurance, wages and taxes.

How much could the Biden government carry out the kind of change that frightens conservatives? The Senate's loudest progressive voices such as Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders can't be expected to fully command the agenda.

As for Georgia, Trump's reaction to the eventual outcome feels predictable. He probably will fault those who did not fully indulge his own hysteria about his own election results. What he actually wishes would happen to McConnell, or if he even cares, is unclear — and quite possibly irrelevant.