Senate Balance Tilts Democratic Following Georgia Runoff Elections

New GA Senators Raphael Warnock (bald, black man) & Jon Ossoff (white man with dark hair)
Raphael Warnock (left) and Jon Ossoff
Jan 08, 2021
WASHINGTON, DC -- On Tuesday, Georgia held runoff elections for both of its seats in the United States Senate as a result of no candidate in either race securing a 50 percent majority during the November 3 General Election, a requirement stipulated by the state’s election laws.
In what is considered by many now a swing state, both Democratic candidates defeated Republican incumbents.  A Democrat from Georgia hasn’t been elected to the Senate since a 2000 special election when then Governor Zell Miller defeated Republican Mack Mattingly, a former U.S. Senator.
Jon Ossoff defeated GOP Sen. David Perdue in his re-election bid.  Perdue formerly served on the Senate Agriculture Committee.
Sen. Kelly Loeffler, who was appointed by Georgia Governor Brian Kemp to fill the seat of long-time GOP Senator Johnny Isakson upon his retirement in 2019, was defeated by Reverend Raphael Warnock.  Loeffler had taken Perdue’s slot on the Senate Agriculture Committee.
Upon Georgia’s vote certification, both Senators will be sworn in.  Ossoff will serve a six-year term and Warnock will serve a two-year term, fulfilling the remainder of Isakson’s term, and seek re-election in 2022.
Ultimately, Georgia was the deciding factor for make-up of the Senate’s dynamics and party split, leaving Democrats and Republicans each with 50 seats in the 100-seat upper chamber.  Upon her swearing-in on January 20, Vice President Kamala Harris will hold the tie-breaking vote, a power vested to the vice president who also serves as the President of the Senate.
This is only the fourth time in the nearly 250-year history of the United States that the Senate will be evenly split.  It also occurred in 1881, 1954, and 2001.
In 2001, then Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) and Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) came to an agreement in an effort to avoid gridlock.  This included committee chairmanships going to the party that held the White House (due to the tie-breaking vote), committee memberships being split equally between parties, and a rule change that would allow for a bill to be brought to the Senate floor for a vote, even if a committee was deadlocked on the legislation.  It is important to note this arrangement lasted for roughly six months until Republican Sen. Jim Jeffords (VT) was convinced to change parties, giving Democrats the upper hand with a 51-49 margin.

Only time will tell if a similar arrangement comes to fruition as negotiations between Sens. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY), the leaders of their respective parties, unfold in the weeks ahead.
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