The Georgia runoff election, which would determine the majority in the US Senate, has come and gone. Senator Raphael Warnock of the Democratic party was declared the winner after securing 51.4% of the votes. His Republican rival and former basketball player Herschel Walker got 48.6% in Tuesday’s runoff.
The contest for the Georgian second senatorial seat went into a runoff after none of the contestants failed to get the 50% of votes cast in last month’s mid-term election, as was the case in the previous election.
While delivering his victory speech, Warnock said: “After a hard-fought campaign – or should I say campaigns – it is my honour to utter the four most powerful words ever spoken in a democracy: The people have spoken.”
What the victory means for the US Senate
Before Tuesday’s runoff election, the Democratic party had already secured 50 seats in the Senate, while the Republican Party had 49 seats. With its 50 seats, the best the Republican party could do was to equal the opposition’s 50. Even if that had happened, the Democrats would still be in charge, being that the US laws gave the powers of a tiebreaker to the vice president should there be a tie in the Senate.
Following Tuesday’s runoff, the Democrats would not need the vice president to come in for them as they now have a clear majority of 51-49. With that, they could boast of controlling the Senate committees, and the President’s nominees could easily pass through.
However, with the majority being narrow, the Democrats could still not have their way all the time, as there are matters that require more than a simple majority to go through. Under the senate rules, a single senator could block a bill through a filibuster, needing 60 votes to break it. At times like that, the Democratic party’s majority might not matter much. With the Republicans down by two men, Mitch McConnell and his men would not hesitate to use their powers to the full.
Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown said the victory is good for the efficiency of the senate as the Republicans would not stand in their way like in the last two years, but admitted that there would only be a little progress.
“We can be more nimble, we will be a lot quicker, we will be a little more decisive, and that’s good. It doesn’t mean we will pass everything,” Senator Brown said.
On his part, Republican Senator John Cornyn said he would have wished for an equally divided senate rather than what they have now.
“I’d much rather have 50-50 than 49-51,” he said. “I think the voters kind of like the idea of us being stalemated. Either bad things won’t happen, or if things do happen, it will have to be the old-fashioned way by finding consensus.”
A victory for Biden, a blow for Trump
Tuesday’s victory is more than a victory for Warnock and his Democratic colleagues at the senate. It is also a victory for Joe Biden, as he would have a less complex Senate to deal with as president. In addition, being that he is recontesting for his position in 2024, he had more men to help him scale the hurdles ahead.
Soon after Warnock’s victory, President Biden phoned in to congratulate him and expressed optimism that things would get easier for the party in the Senate.
“Just called [Senator Warnock] to congratulate him on his win,” President Biden wrote on Twitter. “Tonight Georgia voters stood up for our democracy, rejected Ultra MAGAism, and most importantly: sent a good man back to the Senate. Here’s to six more years.”
For Trump, who single-handedly picked Herschel Walker to contest the seat, watching his party become a minority in the Senate is a blow to his 2024 ambition. Within his party, he is seen as a man that divided the party and made it lose its influence in the Senate. With a divided house, Trump could be having a difficult battle ahead of him.
From another perspective, if the Republican party had managed to get a majority in the Senate as it did in the House, his men would have done their part in blocking the multiple investigations against him. As it stands, the Dems in the Senate could use the power of the majority to further destabilize his already shaky campaign.