Democrats were going to control the Senate in January regardless of the outcome of Tuesday night’s runoff election between Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican nominee Herschel Walker, since a Democrat is in the White House.
CBS News projects that Warnock will keep his Senate seat, meaning Democrats will hold a 51-49 majority, one more seat than they currently hold. That seat will make some difference to the party, although they are a long way from the 60 votes needed to pass most laws, as 60 votes are required to finish debate on the measures being considered.
“After a year, 10 months and 17 days of the longest 50-50 Senate in history, 51, a small majority. that’s great. And we’re very happy about it,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Wednesday morning.
In January, at the 118th Congress, the composition of the Senate committees will be determined by an organizing resolution, which the Senate must approve with each new Congress. The committees will have more Democrats than Republicans, probably only one member due to the close division.
With more Democrats than Republicans on committees, it will be easier for Democrats to push the president’s nominees, including judicial nominees, out of committee and into the full Senate. And that one-vote advantage will help them get approved more quickly.
With a majority in the committees, Democrats will also be able to issue subpoenas without Republican approval. In most committees, citations can be issued by a majority vote in the committee or subcommittee. Subpoenas are governed by committee rules, which still need to be approved. But the rules related to subpoenas are relatively standard.
A 51-49 Senate also means that Vice President Kamala Harris, a former senator and president of the Senate, will have less influence on the floor. Harris prides himself on breaking more ties than almost any other vice president. She broke ties in key votes, including climate and health legislation and the US bailout planwhich provided financial aid to individuals and businesses during the pandemic.
— John Nolen contributed to this report