With just two weeks before the Georgia runoff between Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) and Herschel Walker, party leaders are ramping up advertising spending to secure the Senate seat deemed crucial for both sides.
The Democrats have already secured a narrow majority in the Senate following Senator Catherine Cortez Masto’s win in Nevada, giving the party 50 seats plus Vice President Kamala Harris’ tied vote. Democrats view Warnock’s Georgia seat as crucial to advancing the party’s agenda over the next two years, while Republicans hope to secure a 50-50 Senate.
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Here’s a breakdown of why the Dec. 6 runoff still matters to both parties, even though control already rests with Democrats.
Democrats see a safer majority while Republicans look to hold the tie
Under the current composition of the Senate, both parties hold 50 seats, with Harris serving as the voting vote for the Democrats.
Democrats are trying to hold on to the Georgia Senate seat already occupied by Warnock and are targeting a 51-49 Senate majority — a composition that would give the left an outright majority that could help the party pass legislation more easily. Additionally, it would mean that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer would no longer have to negotiate a power-sharing agreement with his Republican counterpart, Mitch McConnell, to get bills through the upper chamber.
Republicans hope to maintain their connection in the Senate to maintain some sense of control and are targeting a 50-50 mix to block Democratic legislation. The GOP has already secured a narrow majority in the House of Representatives, meaning a tie in the Senate could help the party stall the Democratic agenda over the next two years.
Democrats could have an advantage over committee votes with an absolute majority
Should the Democrats achieve a 51-49 majority, the party would likely be able to place an additional Democrat on each committee, giving them an advantage in moving the legislation forward.
In the current Senate, each committee is split evenly under the 50-50 power-sharing deal. This often delays the passage of legislation critical to the Democrats’ agenda.
“It’s always better at 51 because we’re in a situation where you don’t have to have an even composition of committees,” said President Joe Biden, who spent 36 years in the Senate. “And that’s why it’s so important. But it’s just better. The bigger the numbers, the better.”
At the same time, Republicans are attempting to maintain an even split between committees in order to have some control over passing legislation.
Democrats could shake Joe Manchin’s influence
With a Senate composition of 51-49, Democrats would also have room to lose a Democratic vote and still push through with a majority vote. That reality would reduce Senator Joe Manchin’s (D-WV) influence in the Upper House, as the West Virginia Democrat has often served as a thorn in the party’s side over the past two years.
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Manchin, a centrist, has used the tight margin to his advantage, threatening to vote against the legislation if Democrats don’t compromise – and often stall bills for months. With an extra seat, Democrats could get away with losing Manchin on certain legislation by securing a 50-50 split and letting Harris break the tie.
Republicans are likely eager to maintain Manchin’s influence in the Democratic Party, as the West Virginia senator has sided with them more times than any other Democratic senator, even helping McConnell block an attempt to reform the chamber’s filibuster rule.