If Democrats win both Senate runoff elections in Georgia, they will control the Senate.
With Raphael Warnock's victory in the runoff election in Georgia for the Senate seat held by Republican Kelly Loeffler on Tuesday, control of the Senate is within Democrats' reach.
Major news outlets declared Warnock the winner early Wednesday morning.
Democrat Jon Ossoff declared victory in his close race for the other Georgia Senate seat against former Sen. David Perdue, holding a 16,000-vote lead with most of the remaining uncounted ballots in heavily Democratic jurisdictions.
Should Ossoff be declared the winner, Democrats and Republicans will each hold 50 seats in the chamber. In her ex officio role as president of the Senate, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris would have the authority to be the deciding voice in any tied Senate votes after the inauguration on Jan. 20.
While Senate rules require a 60-vote supermajority for actions necessary to move legislation through the chamber — meaning a Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and his Republican colleagues could filibuster much of the progressive agenda of the administration of President Joe Biden — control of a simple minority in the Senate would give the administration the ability to move forward in many areas.
Biden has announced a diverse and experienced team to lead the executive branch. Senate Republicans, including John Barrasso (WY), Ted Cruz (TX), Marco Rubio (FL), and McConnell (KY) have suggested that they would reject some or all of Biden's nominees if their party controlled the Senate.
But since confirmation votes only require a majority and cannot be filibustered, a unified Democratic caucus could quickly confirm Biden's team with or without GOP votes.
Rebalancing the judiciary
Donald Trump and the Senate GOP majority spent much of the past four years ramming through the nominations of more than 200 federal judges and three Supreme Court justices. McConnell candidly said his goal was to "leave no vacancy behind."
The vast majority of those judges were white men.
While few judicial posts are currently open, a Democratic-controlled Senate would mean Biden would be able to fill vacancies on the courts as they come up. He has pledged to nominate people who "who look like America, are committed to the rule of law, understand the importance of individual civil rights and civil liberties in a democratic society, and respect foundational precedents like Brown vs. Board of Education and Roe v. Wade."
Spending and taxes
In accordance with the Senate's budget reconciliation rules, Democrats would be able to pass changes to tax and spending policies with a simple majority. The 1974 Congressional Budget Act allows some fiscal legislation to pass with just 51 votes, as did much of the Obamacare law in 2010 and the Trump tax bill in 2017.
This could allow Democrats to pass priorities like additional pandemic relief — which Republicans have suggested they would try to block — and the ability for more Americans to purchase a "public health insurance option like Medicare."
Eliminating Trump's regulations
Trump's administration used the regulatory process to roll back protections concerning fair housing, LGBTQ people, the environment, sexual assault survivors, and workers. While Biden can issue new regulations to undo this, that process can often take months or years.
Under the Congressional Review Act, a simple majority in the House and Senate can vote to disapprove of Trump's regulations and make them immediately disappear.
A Democratic majority could focus on oversight of more pressing issues — such as the Trump administration's botched COVID-19 pandemic response.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer celebrated his likely promotion on Wednesday, declaring, "As Majority Leader, President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris will have a partner who is ready, willing and able to achieve a forward-looking agenda and deliver help and bold change to the American people.
"For too long, much-needed help has been stalled or diluted by a Republican-led Senate and President Trump. That will change with a Democratic Senate, Democratic House, and a Democratic President," Schumer promised.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.