The victory of Democrat Raphael Warnock in the crucial run-off election in Georgia means it will be easier for US president Joe Biden to govern in the remainder of his term in the White House.
Even before the vote in Georgia, Biden’s Democratic Party had effective control the US Senate.
But Warnock’s win over Republican rival Herschel Walker means Democrats will have an overall majority and will no longer have to rely on the casting vote of the vice-president, Kamala Harris, to get any measure, without opposition support, through the chamber.
Warnock’s victory also means that Democrats will have a majority on various Senate committees. The majority means it will be easier to get, for example, Biden’s nominees for cabinet posts or for positions in government agencies or the judiciary on to the Senate floor for a confirmation vote.
Senate win in Georgia makes it easier for Biden to govern and raises questions over Trump’s future role
[ Democrats secure majority in US Senate after Georgia victory ]
The Georgia run-off election result on Tuesday brings to an end the lengthy and hugely expensive US midterm election cycle, leaving Republicans in charge of the House of Representatives for the first time since 2018 and the Democrats with stronger control over the Senate.
The expenditure involved was staggering. Overall between the five most competitive Senate contests candidates, parties and outside groups spent about $1.6 billion (€1.5 billion).
From January when the new Senate comes into operation, Democrats will hold 51 seats to Republicans’ 49 in the 100-member chamber.
This majority will avoid the need for Harris to remain close to Washington to cast her vote if needed. It will allow her to travel more widely across the country, particularly as the 2024 presidential campaign kicks off.
In a tied Senate over the past two years, Biden and his party could get some measures passed – unless they were blocked by the requirement for a supermajority of 60 votes in certain circumstances under the filibuster rules.
However, it could be a relatively slow process to get measures, for example, out of committee on to the Senate floor for votes.
A Democrat 51/49 majority is also likely to weaken the leverage of moderate Democrats such as Joe Manchin from West Virginia in the coming two years. In a tied Senate the Democrats needed every single one of their members to back proposals, particularly in the knowledge that very few Republicans would support them. Manchin’s objections blocked Biden’s initial ambitious Build Back Better programme for social, climate and health spending after the Covid-19 pandemic.
Walker’s defeat will also be seen as a another blow for Donald Trump. It is highly unlikely that Walker, a former Georgia football star, would have received the Republican Party nomination without the backing of the former president.
Reportedly many Republican establishment figures were sceptical of Walker as a candidate from the beginning. Walker’s campaign had been hit by allegations of domestic violence and claims that he paid for women to have terminations despite being strongly anti-abortion.
However the Republican establishment ultimately strongly backed Walker in the run-off election, with his campaign supported by the political machine of popular Georgia governor Brian Kemp, who was easily re-elected last month.
Walker was the latest in a line of Trump-backed candidates to lose in the US midterm elections.
In Pennsylvania Mehmet Oz and in Arizona Kari Lake, both strongly supported by Trump, were defeated in their respective contests for the Senate and state governor. Other lost out in their bids to become state governors and to take other elected posts.
Walker’s defeat is likely to add to the sense of anxiety among some Republicans that the party cannot win competitive seats with Trump at the helm.
Warnock holding on to the Senate seat that he originally won two years ago will be a relief for Biden and the Democrats who had put significant resources into his campaign. On polling day alone Democrats had 6,000 workers out knocking on doors to urge people to get out and vote.
Traditionally, Georgia was a deep-red Republican state. However, in recent years it has become much more diverse. In turn, politically it has shifted more towards the Democrats, particularly in urban areas such as Atlanta.