Sen. Raphael Warnock’s (D-Ga.) win Tuesday night padded Democrats’ Senate majority, which could help President Biden, who is headed into the last two years of his first term with a divided government.
While Republicans will hold a narrow majority in the House, Warnock’s victory will give Biden and Democrats a small but critical added margin in the Senate, where they will hold a 51-49 majority.
Here are four ways Warnock’s reelection helps the president.
Biden’s path for nominees eased
With the Democrats securing 51 seats, President Biden’s nominees will have an easier time getting approval without procedural hold ups. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
The White House and its allies may most immediately benefit from having 51 senators in the form of judicial and administrative nominations.
Having 51 seats rather than a 50-50 split with Republicans will enable Democrats to take control of Senate committees, likely making it easier for Biden’s nominees to get approval from those panels without procedural holdups. When it comes to full Senate votes, the party could theoretically afford to lose one or two votes and still approve a nomination.
The change will be critical for Biden, especially because with a split Congress, his legislative agenda may be in limbo. But the president can still make a major impact on the judiciary with court nominees.
“The Joe Biden- Ron Klain judicial makeover project continues apace for two more years thanks to Rev. Warnock’s critical win tonight, which gives Senate Democrats the breathing room to even more efficiently confirm Biden’s new brand of judge,” Brian Fallon, executive director of the progressive group Demand Justice, tweeted Tuesday night.
On the administrative side, the extra seat will similarly make it easier for Biden to get replacements confirmed should any Cabinet officials step down. And should a Democratic senator be absent because of health issues or another reason, they will still have the votes to advance nominees.
Biden less reliant on single senators like Manchin
Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-W.Va.) influence over his party’s legislative agenda will be blunted by a 51-49 majority. (Greg Nash)
White House officials have spent the last two years largely waiting on pins and needles to hear whether Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and, at times, Sen. Krysten Sinema (D-Ariz.) would support their agenda.
Warnock’s seat provides a bit of additional breathing room should legislation come down to just one or two votes for passage.
The president himself laid out the stakes during a phone bank event in support of Warnock last week in Boston.
“When you have a vote of 50/50 in the Senate … that means you got 50 presidents,” Biden said to volunteers. “And we’re a diverse party. And — but we still have all stuck together on the major, major issues. And one of the things that we need — we need that 51st vote.”
Biden’s legislative agenda went through a series of “will they/won’t they” news cycles over the past year as the White House was at the mercy of Manchin and his unwillingness to agree to more spending in the face of inflation concerns.
Republicans will narrowly control the House in the next Congress, making it unlikely that the White House will see major legislative goals achieved. But if there is some sort of bipartisan bill, or a Democratic priority that can peel off some support in the House, having an additional Democrat in the Senate will allow the party to be slightly less reliant on Manchin or Sinema to be able to move forward.
Biden’s case against MAGA Republicans validated
Republican Herschel Walker’s defeat in Georgia marks a major loss for former President Trump and “MAGA Republicans.” (Associated Press)
Biden spent the closing weeks of the midterm campaign making the case that voters should reject what he dubbed “ultra-MAGA Republicans” who were closely associated with former President Trump.
For the most part, Biden’s message appeared to resonate. Trump-backed candidates in Pennsylvania, Arizona and Nevada lost key Senate races, as well as governor races in Michigan and Wisconsin.
In Georgia, voters delivered yet another rebuke in defeating Herschel Walker, the former president’s hand-picked candidate.
“Tonight Georgia voters stood up for our democracy, rejected Ultra MAGAism, and most importantly: sent a good man back to the Senate. Here’s to six more years,” Biden tweeted late Tuesday.
Walker’s defeat comes at a time when Trump has already declared his candidacy for the White House in 2024, dealing another blow to a man Biden and his aides have warned is a threat to democracy.
It also is likely to fuel the White House’s belief that the Republican agenda — tax cuts for wealthier individuals and looking at reductions to programs like Social Security — is unpopular with voters and that Congress should focus on bipartisan priorities.
Harris’s tiebreaking role no longer as vital
Vice President Harris’s vote in the Senate will not be nearly as vital in a 51-49 majority. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Vice President Harris has cast 29 tiebreaking votes in the Senate during her first two years as second in command, the third most in history. But with Warnock’s win, her role as the party’s trump card in the event of ties will no longer be as vital.
Harris was critical for the White House in serving as the tie-breaker for 50-50 votes on Democrats’ two big reconciliation packages, which did not garner any GOP support. Those two pieces of legislation — the American Rescue Plan and the Inflation Reduction Act — formed the backbone of the Biden economic agenda during the past two years.
The vice president has also been key in breaking ties over Biden nominees to serve in the administration and judges nominated to court vacancies.
Harris could still have a tiebreaking role if a Democrat votes with all 49 Republicans in the next Congress or if a party member is missing for health or other reasons.
But she will no longer need to be at the ready to make a trip to the Capitol to advance a nominee or a piece of legislation, freeing her up to do more travel to promote the Biden agenda and her own portfolio ahead of 2024.