What a 51-49 Senate majority means for Democrats
Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock will win Georgia’s Senate runoff, CNN projects, allowing Democrats to secure a slim 51-49 majority over Republicans in the chamber. Democrats will have significant governing advantages compared to the 50-50 split in the current Congress, during which a power-sharing agreement gives Republicans considerable leverage over Democrats despite being in the minority.
- Democrats will hold majorities in each committee, allowing them to process legislation and nominations much faster. Democrats will also enjoy bigger staffs and budgets, giving them more ability to carry out committee work. Committees are currently evenly split — as are the resources — allowing Republicans to slow the pace of nominees they oppose. When a choice deadlocks in committee, Democrats must take time-consuming steps to discharge that person from committee and allow a floor vote. In one instance earlier this year, Republicans used Banking Committee rules to prevent a vote from even taking place by boycotting committee sessions, ultimately forcing President Joe Biden to withdraw a nominee for the Federal Reserve. Tuesday’s result will also free up additional floor time for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to use toward other nominees and Democratic priorities.
- Democrats will have stronger power to issue subpoenas. They will no longer need bipartisan support to issue subpoenas so they can bypass GOP opposition to using these key tools. This could increase the power and number of Democratic-led investigations.
- Centrist Democrats may not hold as much power over Democrats’ agenda. A two-seat majority margin gives Schumer more breathing room to pass legislation without needing support from all members of his caucus — like West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin and Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, moderates who will both be up for reelection in 2024. The two held enormous power in the 50-50 Senate.
- Filling a Supreme Court vacancy could be easier. The two-seat margin could also become critical if there were to be a Supreme Court vacancy as only a majority is needed to confirm a justice to that post, allowing Schumer to lose one vote.
- Harris might not be needed as often on the Hill. Democrats likely won’t have to rely as heavily on Vice President Kamala Harris to break tie votes on nominations and legislation, something she’s done 26 times so far in the current 50-50 Senate, the most by any vice president in modern times.
This headline and story have been updated with additional developments.
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