What Happens If the Senate is Flipped?

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Photo by MIKE STOLL on Unsplash

With the runoff election looming ever closer in Georgia, the question is what happens when the Senate is flipped? If Democrats Jon Ossoff and Reverend Raphael Warnock were to win on January 5th versus the Republican incumbent’s David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, they would “flip the Senate”, and a single party would control both the Legislative and Executive branches. Democrats haven’t held a seat in the Georgia Senate since 2005 but, coming off the presidential election in which President-elect Joe Biden won Georgia by 12,670 votes, Democrats are keen to win Georgia and therefore win the Senate.

At the moment, Republicans hold a slim majority in the Senate, and if either Loeffler or Perdue wins reelection in their runoff, they will maintain their majority rule. But, if both Ossoff and Warnock win, then the Senate will be evenly split at 50/50 with the tie-breaking vote going to the Vice President, which in this situation is Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris. Although, this assumes that Democrats and Republicans would always vote entirely on party lines, and in practice that is hardly the case. Even if both Democrats win in the Georgia runoff election, Democrats would be hard-pressed to achieve everything promised by the incoming administration.

Another major change if the Senate were to flip, would be a new Majority leader taking over. Currently, Senator Mitch McConnell R-KY holds this position, a status he has held for five years, but with a Democratic sweep that would no longer be the case. While in theory and more specifically within the official rules for the Senate, the Majority Leader has no standing greater than any other senators, this has significantly changed these past few years. Now the Majority Leader holds immense power over what legislation is considered and the ease at which a President seats his or her nominations. This power is derived from precedent rather than a set of rules. Mitch McConnell set the precedent that he and he alone decides which bills get considered on the Senate floor, often stonewalling legislation that goes against his and his party’s preferences. Uncontested, this power essentially gridlocks both the Senate and House in enacting legislation when they are held by different political parties. This is a major reason why, with continued control of the House, Democrats are seeking the power to choose the next Majority Leader with a dual win in Georgia.

Current Senate Minority leader Chuck Schumer D-NY would in all likelihood be selected to be the next Majority Leader, and McConnell would likely get demoted into Schumer’s current position in the minority. This would be an immense change from the status quo and would allow a much smoother path for the incoming Biden-Harris Administration. This is why both Senate runoffs in Georgia are immensely important, even to non-Georgians, as they will decide the future scope and direction of U.S. public policy.

(Contributed by Sean Duffy, Content Writer Intern with VotingSmarter)

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