Control of both houses of the US Congress had already been decided even before early voting began in the runoff elections for the Senate in Georgia. But the country’s two main parties treated the vote as a decisive contest.
Hundreds of millions of dollars were spent on the runoff, more than any other contest in 2022. US media focused on the southern US peach-growing state in the run-up to the vote, and when Senator Raphael Warnock won against Republican Herschel Walker on Tuesday, his Democratic Party declared the result a victory for the country.
The race may not have upset the balance of power in an already divided incoming Congress, where Republicans will narrowly control the House of Representatives and Democrats will have a slim majority in the Senate, but it will have political consequences for years to come.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer praised Warnock on Wednesday. “The people of Georgia are better off, the Senate Democratic caucus is better off, and America is better off because he ran and won,” Schumer told reporters.
Democrats will now hold a 51-49 majority in the next Senate, the 118th since the founding of the country, which will take office early next month. For the past two years, the House has been evenly split, with Vice Speaker Kamala Harris acting as the tiebreaker to secure Democratic control.
By tightening their hold on the Senate, Democrats now no longer need to rely on their more conservative members to confirm judges and pass laws.
Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema have wielded outsized power since 2021, often withholding their votes on key legislation to win concessions.
Democrats can also ensure they have a majority in each committee, making it easier to move bills forward and conduct investigations.
In an evenly divided Senate, Republicans and Democrats had equal numbers on committees, making it difficult to push their agenda.
“We can breathe a sigh of relief,” Schumer said of the expanded majority. “Obviously, the judges and the nominees will be much easier to sit on the bench. We are very proud of our track record with judges. It is one of the most significant things, perhaps the most significant, that we have ever done.”
Federal judges, including Supreme Court justices, are appointed by the president but must be confirmed by a simple majority in the Senate.
Senators serve six-year terms, meaning Warnock’s victory will boost Democrats’ chances of retaining the chamber beyond the next Congress, whose term expires in January 2025.
“It just gives us the momentum. The fact that we got 51 votes gives us a great feeling: excitement, unity, encouragement in that sense,” Schumer said.
Politically, Georgia’s victory seals what has been an impressive performance in the 2022 election by Democrats, who bucked historical trends favoring the party out of the White House to make major congressional gains in the midterms. .
It was the first time since 1934 that all the incumbents of the Senate from the ruling party had managed to win re-election.
Rather, it’s another setback for Republicans, especially former president and 2024 presidential candidate Donald Trump, who had endorsed several high-profile Republican losers, including Walker.
Warnock was first elected in 2020 during a special election that also went to a runoff. Another state victory in Georgia, a fast-changing former Republican stronghold, bodes well for future Democratic presidential candidates. Joe Biden had won the state by a very narrow margin against Trump in 2020.
Late on Tuesday, Biden said he called Warnock to congratulate him, characterizing the vote as a rebuke of Trump’s far-right politics.
“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,” wrote the President of the United States, referring to Trump’s Make America Great Again (MAGA) motto.
Other leading Democrats, including Harris, who no longer has to regularly spend time on Capitol Hill to cast the tiebreaking vote in the Senate, also rejoiced in Warnock’s victory.
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) December 7, 2022
“Her values, vision and service in uplifting working families and defending our democracy are invaluable to Georgia, to Congress and to all Americans,” said outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in a post on the social networks.
Al Jazeera’s White House correspondent Kimberly Halkett said the Georgia result means “good news” for Biden.
“However, in terms of legislation, not much is likely to be accomplished because Republicans control one chamber, Democrats control the other, and the White House is still controlled by Democrat Joe Biden,” he said.
“But what this means is that Joe Biden can look to the future where some of these states like Georgia, which were generally Republican controlled states, are now leaning towards the Democratic Party and looking favorable in terms of their re-election chances within two years.”
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