Democrat Raphael Warnock defeating his Republican challenger Herschel Walker in Georgia to win reelection to the U.S. Senate creates a new reality on Capitol Hill.
For the past two years, there was basically a power sharing agreement between the Democrats and Republicans. There was a 50-50 split and Vice President Kamala Harris had the tie-breaking vote.
Warnock’s win gives the Democrats some breathing room and the ability to move forward with the Biden agenda.
“There’s a big difference between a 50-50 Senate and a 51-49 Senate,” said Rick Mullaney, News4JAX political analyst and director of the Jacksonville University Public Policy Institute. “No. 1 is those committee assignments under a 50-50 Senate. It’s the same number of Republicans and Democrats on those committees. Now you have Democrats in the majority. That’s significant for investigations, in particular in which they can issue subpoenas.
“And, by the way, over the next two years, expect that to be happening in the House. That now gives the Senate that same authority,” Mullaney said. “Second is confirmation and the authority to confirm appointments, particularly judges. So now they can go forward with those judicial appointments and the legislative agenda.”
Political analysts say it also ensures that two more conservative leaning members of the Democratic caucus, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Krysten Sinema of Arizona, have less power.
“Over the last two years, each of the 50 senators has had basically a veto authority over his (Biden’s) legislative agenda,” said Mullaney. “And the one who has exercised that veto authority the most has been Joe Manchin. That was true and there were threats of abolishing the filibuster that was (also) true with the American Rescue Plan. For President Biden Joe Manchin has been very challenging. And so is Krysten Sinema who got some changes to the Inflation Reduction Act. That is not the case anymore. You have greater breathing room.”
Warnock heading back to Capitol Hill also certifies Georgia as a bona fide swing state. In 2020, Joe Biden became the first Democratic presidential candidate to carry the Peach State since Bill Clinton in 1992. Then on the eve of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff won runoffs for the state’s two Senate seats.
But Mullaney said despite changing demographics and voting patterns affecting Georgia, he’s cautious
“I believe this had as much to do with candidate quality. Remember, in November Brian Kemp, the Republican governor, won by over seven points. All the other statewide Republican candidates, they won in Georgia in November,” Mullaney said.
Mullaney also mentioned that Walker’s loss was a big blow to Donald Trump because Walker was a “sort of poster child for Trump.”
Mullaney said while it might have some in the GOP wondering if Trump is the candidate to lead the GOP presidential ticket in 2024, Trump is always a formidable candidate and “you can never count him out.”