Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff narrowly defeated their Republican runoff opponents in the Georgia Senate race. This was a historic win in many regards. Reverend Warnock is the first Black person elected to represent the state of Georgia in the Senate and Ossoff will be the youngest member of the Senate. The two wins will also tip the chamber into a 50-50 split between the two majority parties, allowing Vice President-elect Kamala Harris to cast the tie-breaking vote.
For the last ten years, Democrats have not been able to push forward many legislative changes due to a divided Congress. A bill has to pass with a majority in both chambers and then be approved by the President before it can become a law. With Democrats and Republicans divided on most issues, it was nearly impossible for Democrats to get anything passed. This was no more evident than in the final days of 2020 when the Democrat-led House voted to increase stimulus checks for Americans under a certain income level to $2,000 and the GOP-led Senate refused to vote on it. However, now for the first time since 2010, Democrats control both chambers of Congress and the Presidency.
A united Congress will allow them to effect legislation on issues like the environment, healthcare, immigration, and the economy. It is also likely that the next time around citizens will be able to receive those $2,000 stimulus checks. That is as long as Democratic Senators vote as one. Moderate Democrats will likely prevent the more progressive bills from passing, but, at the very least, the party should be able to advance President-elect Joe Biden’s legislative agenda.
This new Congressional change will also allow Democrats to easily confirm Biden’s presidential nominations. As a check to the President’s power to appoint unelected advisors, the Constitution requires that, in some cases, there must be a Senate confirmation of a President’s nominees. Therefore, many of those selected for Biden’s administration, from the Cabinet to advisors, must be confirmed by the Senate. 50 Democratic Senators (with Harris as a tie-breaker) will ensure a smooth confirmation process.
Although the Senate is evenly split, the President will have more room to enact his agenda. If the Senate continued as GOP-led, it is unlikely much change would occur. The wins of Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff in Georgia will surely allow the Biden presidency to get off to a good start.