Warnock delivers 51-seat Senate for Democrats, and much more

  • Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., speaks with reporters after Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock defeated Republican challenger Herschel Walker in a runoff election in Georgia last night, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2022. Democrats' new outright majority in the Senate means the party will no longer have to negotiate a power-sharing deal with Republicans and won't have to rely on Vice President Kamala Harris to break as many tie votes. (AP Photo/J.... J. Scott Applewhite

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    Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., joined by Sen. Gary Peters., D-Mich., chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, signals "51" as he speaks with reporters after Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock defeated Republican challenger Herschel Walker in a runoff election in Georgia last night, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2022. Democrats' new outright majority of 51-49 in the Senate means the party will no longer have to negotiate a... J. Scott Applewhite

  • Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock speaks as he stands with his mother Verlene Warnock and his daughter Chloe during an election night watch party, Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022, in Atlanta. Sen. Warnock has defeated Republican challenger Herschel Walker in a runoff election in Georgia. (AP Photo/John Bazemore) John Bazemore

AP Congressional Correspondent
Published: 12/7/2022 4:10:29 PM
Modified: 12/7/2022 4:10:07 PM

WASHINGTON — For Senate Democrats, an oh-so-slim 51-49 majority never sounded so good.

Sen. Raphael Warnock’s victory in swing-state Georgia gives Democrats a welcome “lift,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Wednesday at the Capitol — newly confident of sidelining Trump-inspired Republicans in Congress and reaching across the aisle to other GOP lawmakers to deliver on bipartisan priorities with President Joe Biden.

“If we can get some bipartisan things done, it will of course be better for the country. And it will be better for the Republican Party,” he said.

Tuesday’s election was for just one seat, but Warnock’s win in the tight runoff provides an unexpected capstone to the midterm election cycle for his party. It makes easier for Senate Democrats to organize and govern, and provides a crucial edge in a divided Congress as Republicans take hold of the House.

Gone is the especially intense political pressure of a 50-50 Senate that required all Democrats to toe the line — and made it possible for a single senator, notably Joe Manchin, to buck party priorities.

When the new Congress assembles in January, the extra seat will give Senate Democrats a solid majority that provides greater control over not just floor votes but also the committees, which are the backbeat of legislating.

And mostly gone will be the days when Capitol Hill came to a standstill awaiting Vice President Kamala Harris’ motorcade for her role of breaking tie votes — particularly for Biden’s nominees – which she has had to do more often than any predecessor.

“Chuck Schumer’s job is going to get a lot easier,” said Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va.

After the longest evenly split Senate in modern times, the new dynamic ensures the chamber will serve as a barrier to legislation from the Republican House that Democrats disagree with — and a potential bridge for bipartisan deal making as Republicans assess the post-Trump landscape.

While it still takes 60 votes to overcome a filibuster and advance most bills in the Senate, there will be ample grounds for compromise, particularly if Republican leader Mitch McConnell is eager to show voters his party can deliver ahead of the 2024 presidential and congressional elections.

McConnell was silent Wednesday on Warnock’s victory and the new political reality.

In January, for starters, Democrats will have an easier time using their 51-49 majority for simple tasks of governing, including votes on Biden’s nominees to judicial and executive positions, which Republicans have wielded as weapons.

The same goes for committee action. The Democrats will now have full power to send legislation to the Senate floor, overcoming Republican objections that can drag out the process. They also will have subpoena power, which they plan to use for investigating corporate America.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin, D-Ill., had kind words for the top Republicans on what has been his evenly divided panel.

“Chuck Grassley is a friend, we’ve been able to work together. And I’m confident we can do that again with Senator Graham,” said Durbin, referring to Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who will take Grassley’s place in the new Senate.




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