Chuck Schumer celebrates Democrats' expanded Senate majority with Georgia runoff win

After Raphael Warnock's victory, Senate majority leader previews how Democrats plan to use 51-49 advantage

A giddy Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer celebrates Senator Raphael Warnock's victory, giving Democrats a 51-seat majority. EPA
Powered by automated translation

US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on Wednesday celebrated Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock's run-off victory in Georgia that will allow the party to expand its control in the upper chamber of Congress.

Democrats now hold 51 seats in the 100-member chamber after a nearly two-year period in which Mr Schumer had to navigate a razor-thin 50-50 majority, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting any tiebreaking votes.

It was the longest stretch that any majority leader has had to deal with such fine margins.

“They say all good things come to those who wait and this outcome was absolutely worth the wait,” a buoyant Mr Schumer said during a press conference.

“After one year, 10 months and 17 days of the longest 50-50 Senate in history, 51 — a slim majority — that is great and we are so happy about it.”

Mr Warnock joins all other incumbent Democrats who won their re-election contests — the first time that has happened in decades.

It also deals another blow to former president Donald Trump, whose endorsed candidates suffered a string of defeats in the US midterm elections.

The 51-49 split gives Democrats several significant advantages during the final two years of President Joe Biden's term.

First, they will probably need to rely less on Ms Harris, whose vote has previously been needed to break ties.

It also gives less sway to Democratic senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, who were significant obstacles to Mr Biden's plans to pass his initial social spending bill and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.

Highlighting the fragility of power in a 50-50 split, Mr Biden once likened each senator to being a president. The extra vote now scales back the power that each individual senator previously had.

The slightly larger majority will also have an impact on committees, where Democrats previously held an equal number of seats with their Republican counterparts. Not only does this allow legislation to move on the floor more quickly, but it also gives Democrats the power to issue subpoenas with a majority vote.

“We’ll have the advantage on every committee,” Mr Schumer said.

He has said Democrats will use this advantage to subpoena executives and corporations to bolster their investigations.

“Subpoena power can deal with corporate corruption and inequities and other problems throughout the country,” he said.

Democrats and Republicans are both preparing to launch investigations once the new Congress is seated next year. Republicans have vowed to examine the actions of Mr Biden's son Hunter, the administration's handling of the migrant crisis on the southern border and the country's withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Mr Schumer and his colleagues will spend a large portion of the next two years confirming Mr Biden's judicial nominees.

Mr Biden has appointed a record number of federal judges and 90 of them have been confirmed. With Democrats now in control of 51 seats, they will be able to speed up the confirmation process.

It also gives Mr Biden a greater chance to appoint a new Supreme Court justice if a vacancy opens up before the end of his term.

Updated: December 08, 2022, 6:52 AM