ABOVE PHOTO: This combination of photos shows, Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., speaking to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Aug. 3, 2021, left, and Republican Senate candidate Herschel Walker speaking in Perry, Ga., Sept. 25, 2021. (AP Photo)
By Mary Clare Jalonick
WASHINGTON — Democrats have secured their majority in the Senate for the next two years. But holding on to Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock’s seat in Georgia’s runoff next month could be crucial to their success. If Warnock wins the runoff against Republican Herschel Walker, Democrats will have 51 seats. That would make legislating a lot easier than it is in the current 50-50 Senate, the narrowest possible balance of power. For the last two years, Democrats have had to rely on Vice President Kamala Harris — she is the president of the Senate — to break ties.
Republicans and Democrats are spending millions of dollars to win the seat in the Dec. 6 runoff in Georgia after neither Warnock nor Walker, a famed former football player, won the necessary 50 percent margin to triumph on Election Day. Warnock beat Sen. Kelly Loeffler in a 2020 special election and is now vying for a full six-year term.
A 50-50 Senate “slows everything down,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in an interview last week. “So it makes a big difference to us.”
A look at what a 51st seat would mean for Senate Democrats:
A 51-49 Senate would give Democrats an outright majority, meaning that Schumer wouldn’t have to negotiate a power-sharing agreement with Republican leader Mitch McConnell. The two parties had to do that two years ago and also in 2001, the last time the Senate was evenly split.
In early 2021, confirmations of new President Joe Biden’s nominees were stalled for several weeks while Schumer and McConnell worked out an agreement on how to split committees and move legislation on the Senate floor.
Using the little leverage he had, McConnell threatened not to finalize a deal until Democrats promised that they wouldn’t try to kill the legislative filibuster that forces a 60-vote threshold.
The Republican leader finally relented after two Democratic senators — West Virginia’s Joe Manchin and Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema — made it clear they would not support such a move on the filibuster.
Committees are now evenly split between the two parties due to the 50-50 power-sharing deal. This often creates extra steps when a committee vote is tied, forcing Democrats to hold votes on the Senate floor