The week after the Thanksgiving holiday, Congress was back in action to pass legislation preventing what could have been an economically devastating freight rail strike. Also in the Senate, the Respect for Marriage Act passed with bipartisan support, advancing a bill to protect same-sex marriage rights.
Down south, candidates in the runoff race for Georgia's Senate seat campaigned through the state's early voting period and ahead of the special Election Day this Tuesday. Prominent party figures on both sides turned out on behalf of both Republican Herschel Walker and Democrat Raphael Warnock, who were forced into a runoff against each other after neither candidate received at least 50% of the vote on Nov. 8.
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Democratic primary updates: Democrats move toward approving Biden's overhaul giving South Carolina top slot
Here's what happened this week in politics:
Lead up to Georgia's Runoff Election Day
In the Georgia runoff race between Democrat Raphael Warnock and Republican Herschel Walker, early voting kicked off last weekend and ran through Friday. Both Walker and Warnock have been busy campaigning across the peach state, since neither Senate candidate earned the necessary 50% of the vote in November. Ahead of their special Election Day this Tuesday, popular figures from both parties have been stumping for the Georgia candidates, including former president Barack Obama who spoke at an Atlanta rally Thursday. Gov. Brian Kemp, who won his own race for reelection last month, campaigned for fellow Republican Walker.
More: Super PACs spending $16M more on Raphael Warnock than Herschel Walker in Georgia runoff
Why it matters: Georgia's runoff will determine if Senate is split 50-50 or 51-49
This race in Georgia will not impact the Senate majority, which was already set for Democrats with Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto's victory in Nevada last month. However, the outcome could offer an advantage to Democrats especially, as a 51-49 majority could mean additional committee seats and less worry for Biden that Democratic centrists Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin of West Virginia could hinder his progressive priorities.
Biden and Congress prevent potentially crippling rail strike
President Joe Biden signed legislation Friday morning to avert a massive rail strike, which he said would have had the potential to cripple the national economy. The legislation, which the House passed Wednesday and the Senate on Thursday, reached a tentative agreement between unions and freight operators. It offers rail workers a 24% pay increase over five years, $5,000 bonuses, voluntary assigned days off and one paid sick day off. A House-approved amendment for additional paid sick leave, something workers and unions wanted out of the agreement, failed to earn enough votes to pass in the Senate.
Senate advanced the Respect for Marriage Act
The Senate passed a bill Tuesday afternoon to enshrine same-sex marriage rights with bipartisan support in a 61 to 36 vote. The Respect for Marriage Act, which requires the federal government to recognize all marriages from a state where the union was legal, will go back to the House for approval Tuesday, according to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. The legislation comes in response to the overturning of Roe v. Wade this summer, when Justice Clarence Thomas raised the specter that earlier high court rulings protecting same-sex and interracial marriage rights could be reversed as well.
"Zero-COVID" protests in China
Unprecedented demonstrations arose in cities across the country challenging the Chinese government's "zero-COVID" regulations and calling for the resignation of President Xi Jinping. The protests followed an apartment fire in the northwest region that killed 10, during which the country's strict pandemic rules reportedly hindered emergency personnel's response. Demonstrations against the rigid quarantine measures, travel restrictions and other COVID-19 policies, which have been in place for almost three years now, continue in a country where civil unrest is extremely rare and dangerous.
Dems. elect Hakeem Jeffries as House leader
House Democrats elected New York Rep. Hakeem Jeffries Wednesday to be minority leader in the next Congress that begins Jan. 3. Currently chair of the House Democratic Caucus, Jeffries will make history as the first Black leader of a major party in either chamber of Congress. He succeeds Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who announced earlier this month she would not be seeking another leadership position in the next Congress.
Biden's first state dinner
President Biden welcomed French President Emmanuel Macron Thursday for this White House administration's first state dinner. With celebrities, congressional leaders and business titans in attendance, the event marked renewed relations with France, after a canceled submarine deal led Macron to pull his ambassador from the U.S. last year.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Walker, Warnock campaign, rail strike prevented, this week in politics