by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Joe Biden’s chances of implementing his campaign agenda have improved significantly with Democratic control of the Senate from winning the Georgia runoffs, boosting the odds for items such as economic stimulus spending, infrastructure, and clean energy investments.
Chuck Schumer, as majority leader, will decide what legislation gets voted on, not Mitch McConnell, the Republican who has run the Senate since 2015. Democrats also retain control of the House, albeit with a smaller margin.
Biden’s Cabinet faces a much quicker and easier path to confirmation through the Senate, with only a simple majority vote required.
And Republicans without control of committees won’t have oversight power, giving them little leverage in negotiations.
“The difference is enormous,” said Matt Bennett, co-founder and executive vice president of Third Way.
He noted that McConnell generally refused to bring bipartisan bills to the floor unless there was consensus support among Republicans, an approach that prevented legislation from passing that might have garnered sufficient votes.
“Most importantly, Democratic control of the Senate means we don’t have to rely on Mitch McConnell to put things on the floor,” Bennett said. “It’s a fundamentally different calculus.”
But Senate Democrats only have a nominal majority, with seats split evenly 50-50 between each party and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris acting as a tiebreaker. That means Biden would have a tough time passing sweeping policies preferred by liberals, such as emissions reduction mandates to fight climate change, “Medicare for all,” universal background checks for guns, and tuition-free college.
Most legislation requires 60 votes, meaning 10 Republicans would need to cross over, assuming there was total Democratic support.
“Democrats get to set the issue agenda,” said Jason Grumet, president of the Bipartisan Policy Center. “They do not get to unilaterally drive issue outcomes.”