Credit: Ariana Figueroa / States Newsroom
‘Worth the wait’: U.S. Senate Democrats celebrate a 51-seat majority with Georgia win
WASHINGTON — U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer jubilantly announced Wednesday that the Georgia runoff election victory will next year end an evenly divided U.S. Senate, giving Democrats more subpoena power in committees and a quicker turnaround in approving federal and judicial appointments.
Schumer, a New York Democrat, congratulated Democratic U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock for winning a full six-year term in Georgia’s U.S. Senate runoff election Tuesday night against Republican challenger Herschel Walker.
“This outcome is absolutely worth the wait after one year, 10 months and 17 days of the longest 50-50 Senate in history,” Schumer said. “Fifty-one, a slim majority, that is great, and we are so happy about it.”
The last win in the 2022 midterm elections gives Senate Democrats a true majority for the next Congress, and won’t require a power-sharing agreement with Republicans.
Schumer said that Democrats can now “breathe a sigh of relief,” and that judicial nominees will be confirmed more quickly, rather than having nominations stalled in a split U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee. On rare occasions, Vice President Kamala Harris has had to make trips to the Senate to cast a tiebreaker floor vote.
“We are so proud of our record with judges,” Schumer said. “It’s one of the most significant things … we’ve done.”
There are currently 89 open judicial seats. So far, 87 judges have been confirmed under the Biden administration.
Of those confirmed, two-thirds are women, half are people of color and “there are more Black women on the federal bench now … (than) before Biden became president,” Schumer said.
“The bench is looking more like America now,” Schumer said.
The Manchin factor
The 51-seat majority also allows Democrats to afford to lose one vote, particularly from Democratic U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, who has had significant power in scaling back legislative priorities such as striking down an expansion to the Child Tax Credit that helped lift millions of children out of poverty, and opposition to major climate change policy.
Schumer added that committees will not be deadlocked anymore, usually 10 to 10, and in the next Congress those committees will be able to successfully vote to issue subpoenas, for not just requesting information from the Biden administration, but from corporations too.
“That’s all going to change because we’ll have the advantage on every committee,” Schumer said.
However, Republicans are set to take control of the House come January, and Senate Democrats still need to overcome the 60-vote filibuster threshold, so passing any legislation in a divided government will be difficult.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Gary Peters of Michigan, chair of the party’s Senate campaign arm — the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee — joined Schumer during Wednesday’s press conference. Peters said Warnock was an exceptional candidate, touting his work in the Senate.
“Now that he’s coming back for six years, you can just imagine what he’ll do for the next six years,” Peters said.
Warnock and Ossoff
Warnock ran in 2020 to finish the rest of the two-year term of former Republican U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, who retired due to health concerns. Warnock, along with Democratic U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff, both competed in runoff elections in 2021, becoming Georgia’s first Black and Jewish senators and giving Democrats control of the Senate.
Ossoff said he is looking forward to continuing working alongside Warnock.
“It is a pleasure and a privilege to deliver for the state of Georgia every day, alongside my colleague Sen. Warnock in Congress, and I am looking forward to continuing to do so,” he said to States Newsroom.
The chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, U.S. Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, said in a statement that Walker’s campaign inspired millions of Georgians.
By early Wednesday, Warnock had about 51.3% of the vote, edging out Walker by about 90,000 votes, according to unofficial results.
“While Herschel came up short last night, I know he will continue to be a leader in our party for years to come,” Scott said.
In a concession speech Tuesday night, Walker thanked all of his supporters and urged them to “continue to believe in the Constitution and believe in our elected officials.”
“One of the things I want to tell all of you is you never stop dreaming,” he said. “Most of all, continue to pray for them because of all the prayers you’ve given me, I felt those prayers.”
This story comes to GPB through a reporting partnership with Georgia Recorder.