KEY POINTS

  • After surprise concessions from their opponents, Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock will likely arrive in the Senate before it considers articles of impeachment
  • The swearing-in of Kamala Harris as vice president will give Democrats a slim majority for that fight
  • Even with a majority, the effort faces significant roadblocks

Incoming Georgia Democratic Sens. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock could be sworn in prior to the Senate proceeds with a possible impeachment trial of President Donald Trump due to recent concessions from their incumbent Senate opponents in the Jan. 5 runoff elections.

Georgia counties must certify their election results by at least Jan. 15 and Georgia's Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger would have until at least Jan. 22 to certify the results. Ossoff defeated Sen. David Perdue, while Warnock defeated Sen. Kelly Loeffler. 

Perdue and Loeffler were expected to contest their losses of Georgia’s Senate runoffs in court, with Perdue saying as much over Twitter.

But following the Capitol riots, as well as the substantial margins of their defeats, Perdue and Loeffler both conceded last week. The Republicans' decision shifted the political balance in the Senate.

Charles Bullock, a political science professor at the University of Georgia, told Roll Call that the chaos seemed to convince Perdue and Loeffler to clear the way.

“I think the riots in the Capitol probably sped up the concessions so they became more conventional,” he said.

The speed of the concessions makes it possible for Georgia’s new senators to vote on the potential Trump impeachment trial, which is expected to pass in the Democratic-controlled House. On Jan. 20, Kamala Harris will be sworn in as vice president, giving Democrats a 50-50 majority in the Senate. 

Democratic candidates for US Senate Jon Ossoff (L) and Raphael Warnock (R) are seeking to oust Republican incumbents in runoff elections that will determine the balance of power in Congress Democratic candidates for US Senate Jon Ossoff (L) and Raphael Warnock (R) are seeking to oust Republican incumbents in runoff elections that will determine the balance of power in Congress Photo: AFP / JIM WATSON

A memo from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell circulated by the Washington Post indicates that while proceedings could begin as soon as the Senate opens on Jan. 19, consideration of the articles of impeachment wouldn’t actually commence until Jan. 20 or 21. 

While that delay gives Democrats the majority during the proceedings, it also presents a challenge: It’s far from clear whether Congress can constitutionally remove a president from an office he no longer holds. 

Warnock and Ossoff may not make a significant difference in removing Trump. According to Article 1, Sections 2 and 3 of the Constitution, the House of Representatives "shall have the sole Power of Impeachment" and that "the Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments…[but] no person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two-thirds of the Members present." 

Even if Democrats receive the mass defection they would need to remove Trump, it would likely be challenged in court and rise to the consideration of the conservative-majority Supreme Court that favors literalist interpretations of the constitution.