After two of the most expensive Senate races in United States history, Democrats will take control of the Senate after Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff both won their runoff Senate elections in Georgia in early January. With these wins and Joe Biden’s win in November, Democrats will control the Senate, House of Representatives, and Presidency for the first time in a decade.
Warnock and Ossoff made history with their election victories. Warnock is the first African-American to win a senate election in Georgia, while Ossoff becomes the first Jewish person to be elected a Georgia senator. This will be the first time two Democrats represent Georgia in the Senate since 2003. Republicans have held both seats since 2005.
When asked about what Ossoff’s win means going forward, Junior Aaron Kopp, who is also Jewish, said, “I think we’ve heard for a long time that the South is getting more progressive, and I think this may be an indication of that.”
Kopp also expressed concern for the Jewish people because of a Jewish person being elected, “That’s time and again why anti-semitism happens.”
These wins give the Democratic party two more seats in the Senate for a total of 50, while the Republican party holds 50 seats as well. Vice President Kamala Harris, as president of the Senate, is able to break any 50-50 ties. This effectively gives Democrats the majority in the Senate. Combined with their control of the House of Representatives and soon-to-be control of the Presidency, Democrats will be able to pass legislation without Republican support much more easily. Democrats will have this control for at least the next two years. In the 2022 midterm elections, the entire House of Representatives and 34 Senate seats will be up for grabs.
With this majority, President-elect Biden will likely not have much trouble confirming his cabinet picks. Any federal judicial picks he makes in the next two years will likely also be easily confirmed by the Senate. Democrats will also have the opportunity to pass legislation that would not typically pass without Republican support. This includes the potential for expanded healthcare and more COVID stimulus checks. While they will have the majority, it is the slimmest majority possible in the Senate. Therefore, if even one Democrat votes against a bill Republicans do not support, the bill will likely die unless it is amended. This raises the prospect of more moderate Democrats preventing legislation from passing that is deemed too radical.
Kopp believes stimulus checks should be a priority to be passed under the Democratic majority. “The first round of stimulus checks expired back in August, and the country has really been hurting,” Kopp said. “I think if we can get more stimulus checks, that’s what’s going to be able to dig us out of this economic rut.”
This new Democratic majority has raised prospects of possible significant changes to government. These include measures such as eliminating the filibuster and adding seats to the Supreme Court. Although the Democratic Party will have the majority, these changes seem less likely given the party’s slim control of the Senate.
Kopp believes that if any of these big changes are made, Republicans could give the Democrats a taste of their own medicine when they are in charge again. “If they do make those changes, the other shoe is gonna drop at some point,” Kopp said. “And next time we see someone like Ted Cruz or Mitch McConnell in charge, I don’t think we’re gonna like the blowback of that.”
These Georgia wins complete a flip of government that started with the midterm elections of 2018. From 2017-2019, Republicans controlled Congress and the Presidency. In the 2018 midterm elections, Democrats won control of the House of Representatives. Now, in the 2020 elections, Democrats will take control of the Senate and Presidency while maintaining a majority in the House. This represents a complete flip of government from the time President Trump took office. This flip is slated to last until at least January 2023, when the next congress will be seated after the 2022 midterm elections.
With Democrats controlling the entire federal government, there is some concern that conservative voices could be silenced. Since Republicans have no majority, they will not have as much of a say as is typical in the legislative process. This means that while the Republican party can voice their concerns about legislative matters, final decisions on these matters will come down to Democrats. Some, however, are less concerned about the issue.
“In the short-term, it’s just not something to be worried about,” explained Kopp. “…We’ve seen this happen before, we’ll see this happen again. Either the pendulum is gonna swing back the other way, or the parties are going to change, so I’m not particularly worried about Democrats silencing Republicans.”
Many people are crediting Stacey Abrams, former Georgia state House minority leader and 2018 Democratic candidate for Georgia governor, for Georgia’s sudden shift towards the Democratic party. For the past decade, she has been working toward changing Georgia into a state where Democrats could win. She started with her New Georgia Project before becoming the founder of Fair Fight, a voting rights organization, after her loss in the Georgia governor race in 2018. Through organizing volunteers and canvassers, she worked to help increase minority turnout in Georgia and rebuild the state’s Democratic party. Her efforts have been majorly successful as the Democrats triumphed in the Presidential election and both Senate elections in the state this election season.
This year was a rather unusual one for Senate elections in Georgia. Normally, there is only one Senate seat or zero Senate seats up for election in a given state in an election year. This year was different because of a special election in Georgia that took place at the same time as the normal election. This special election happened because the senator who originally held the seat, Republican Johnny Isakson, retired at the end of 2019. Georgia Governor Brian Kemp (R) appointed Republican Kelly Loeffler to fill the vacancy. In accordance with Georgia law, the state held a Senate election this past November in order to fill the seat for the remainder of Isakson’s original term, which expires in 2023. In the election in November, none of the candidates won more than 50% of the vote, which, according to Georgia law, means a second round, or runoff, election needed to occur with just the top two vote receiving candidates in the first election appearing on the ballot. The top two were Democrat Warnock and Republican incumbent Loeffler. This is one of the two Georgia Senate elections that took place.
The other Georgia Senate election that took place was the regular election. In this race, a full six year term in the Senate was at stake. Just like the special election, the regular election also headed to a runoff. The top two vote-getters in the November election were Democrat Ossoff and Republican incumbent David Perdue. This runoff occurred at the same time as the special election runoff.
In both elections, the Democratic candidates outperformed Joe Biden’s margin of victory in Georgia of 0.3% in the 2020 Presidential election. Warnock defeated Loeffler by two percentage points, and Ossoff defeated Perdue by just over one percentage point.
Warnock won the special election, which means he’ll serve out the remainder of what was originally Isakson’s term. He will serve until at least January 2023, and he will be up for reelection in the 2022 midterm elections. Ossoff won the regular election, meaning he will serve until at least January 2027. He will be up for reelection in the 2026 midterm elections.
“This really is a rebuke of Trump’s election lies and of Trump in general,” Kopp said about the Georgia Senate runoff elections. “Both Republican incumbents ran on the coattails of the stolen election narrative, and to see them then both lose is pretty telling.”
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