For the second time in less than two years, a race in the US Senate in Georgia will go to the runoff, this time between incumbent Democrat Raphael Warnock and his challenger, backed by Donald Trump, Herschel Walker.
Unlike last time, the December 6 vote will not determine whether President Joe Biden’s Democrats have control of the Senate, where they’ve already secured enough seats to maintain their razor-thin majority.
But there is still a lot at stake for both parties.
Decreasing loner democrats
In the last two years, the Democrats have had the smallest possible majority in the evenly divided Senate, in which Vice President Kamala Harris gave them a tie.
This has caused a major headache for majority leader Chuck Schumer, as two outsiders from his party — Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema — repeatedly blocked Democratic legislation, including a voting rights bill and spending packages.
A win by Warnock would mean that Schumer could lose the support of a member of his Democratic Committee and still win votes. However, he may have less opportunity to take flashy steps, as Republicans will have a narrow majority in the House of Representatives.
If Walker, a Republican, wins, Schumer would immediately be back where he was for the last two years and would have to persuade each and every one of his senators to join in or suffer a defeat.
Both Manchin and Sinema held oversized roles in 2021 and 2022 on some of Biden’s most valuable initiatives, such as COVID-19 relief and legislation relating to climate change and prescription drug costs.
Due to the gap between 50 and 50 in the Senate, committee members are currently evenly distributed. These committees oversee a range of federal programs, from military and agriculture to home security, transportation, healthcare, and foreign affairs.
tie in legislative committees or presidential nominations prevents such measures from reaching the entire Senate, at least temporarily. It takes time-consuming procedural maneuvers to overcome the committee’s deadlock so that the entire chamber can pass overcrowded bills and nominations.
A win by Warnock would give the Democrats at least one more member on each committee than the Republicans, making it harder for Republicans to get in the way of Biden’s agenda.
This could also provide Democrats with a stronger counterweight to House Republicans and allow Senate committees to push ahead with more liberal legislation and candidates, which in turn could help energize their core voters in the 2024 elections.
All eyes are on 2024
The Democrats will face a daunting task of maintaining their majority in the 2024 elections when they defend 21 seats against the 10 Republicans.
Two of these seats are in Republican-oriented states: West Virginia, where Manchin is up for reelection, and Montana, where John Tester faces the voters. Another five are in the swing states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Wisconsin, and Arizona, all of which will be in play in the presidential election. Given the Chamber’s narrow divide, the seat in Georgia could be a necessary bulwark.
Six years, not two
Warnock was elected to the Senate in early 2021 to fill the remaining two years of Republican Johnny Isakson’s term after he resigned at the end of 2019 due to health reasons.
If Warnock manages to defeat Walker, he will place the seat in Democratic hands for six years — a full term in the Senate — at a time when the party must fight for its majority status.
A Walker victory would give national Republicans a boost, as their standing in the state of Georgia has been weakened against the Democrats in recent years. A win by Warnock could suggest that Democrats are making progress in places where they’ve had trouble gaining prominence in the past.