democrats' peachy result

Warnock’s win in Georgia confirms a split congress for the rest of Biden’s term

A divided government is nothing new for the US—and it’s not all bad news

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Will chaos descend upon Congress now?
Will chaos descend upon Congress now?
Photo: Win McNamee (Getty Images)

Raphael Warnock’s win in the Georgia runoffs has cemented the Democrats’ majority in the Senate.

The incumbent Democrat senator has won more than 51% of the votes in Georgia against Republican rival Herschel Walker, who accepted his defeat. Georgia’s Senate seat strengthens the Democrats’ control of the upper chamber, with a 51-49 majority.

The 2022 midterm election season leaves the US Congress split for the remaining two years of president Joe Biden’s term. The House of Representative is under control of the Republican Party—although with a much smaller majority than they had hoped.

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One big number: Warnock’s funding advantage

$170 million: Overall spending by Warnock’s campaign, versus Walker’s $60 million.

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Perks of a Senate majority for Democrats

Georgia’s result confirms Biden as the first Democrat president since JFK in 1962 to increase his majority in the Senate, while losing the House.

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Retaining a majority in the Senate will help Democrats exercise power in various areas:

🙌 They can enjoy bigger staffs and budgets, allowing them to process legislation and nominations much faster, and with less Republican interference.

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🚔 They would get unilateral power to issue subpoenas and conduct more Democratic-led investigations.

🤸‍♀️ There’s more flexibility within the caucus when it comes to close calls. Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer can be less reliant on centrists like Joe Manchin of West Virginia or Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema when passing legislation and confirming nominees. With the 50-50 Senate, when Democrats needed to be united in their decisions, the two forced the party to make major changes to its tax, healthcare, and climate law; and dashed Biden’s hopes of relaxing a filibuster rule to pass a federal abortion law.

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🧑‍⚖️ More of Biden’s judicial nominees can be confirmed, and if a Supreme Court vacancy opens up, Biden’s pick is virtually guaranteed a win.

✊ There’s no longer a need to rely on vice president Kamala Harris’s tie-breaking votes on Capitol Hill—she’s cast 26 of them in the 50-50 Senate.

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🕑 Since Senators hold their seat for six years, the party’s position in the upper house is cemented well beyond Biden’s current term, and gives them some leverage to shake off future shakeups

What will a split Congress look like?

Some may suggest a split Congress leads to political deadlocks. As Republicans in the House set the legislative agenda and chair all the committees, and Democrats in the Senate call the shots on bills and control which legislation comes to the floor for a vote, pushing major initiatives will be a task for both parties.

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However, that’s not entirely true. Bipartisan agendas like cracking down on Big Tech are likely to proceed. Republicans will probably steer clear of calling for major changes to healthcare in this uncertain climate. New legislation will still pass, even if the tussle between the two parties may give it a different shape from when it’s first introduced to when it’s approved. For instance, “any infrastructure package will rely on compromise between Democrats and Republicans, and the price tag could be smaller,” according to Meera Pandit, global market strategist at JP Morgan.

“Although divided government provokes thoughts of gridlock and acrimony, it should be remembered that historically it is the most common configuration of government,” Pandit says. “Indeed, the US has seen divided government approximately 62% of the time since World War II. It should also be noted that over time the economy has continued to grow and the stock market has reached new heights, regardless of political configuration.”

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Some issues remain divisive no matter who controls the legislative chambers. As James Curry, a political science professor at the University of Utah, pointed out, Congress has often struggled to take consequential action on big-ticket issues like climate change and immigration under divided or unified government.

Charted: History of split Congress in the US

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One more thing: Republicans want to probe Biden

The Senate majority gives Democrats more power and resources to see documents and call witnesses without GOP approval, but Republicans in control of the House have similar powers. Republicans have already said they will end the Jan. 6 committee probing the 2021 Capitol Hill riots sparked by former president Donald Trump’s baseless allegations of election fraud.

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They also wish to open an investigation into Biden administration officials and the president’s son Hunter Biden’s past business dealings with China and other countries. They’ve vowed to probe whether Biden himself “is a president who is compromised or swayed by foreign dollars and influence” as well.

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