by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Rarely are the stakes so high in a special election as in the two Senate runoffs in Georgia on January 5. Incumbent Republican Senator David Perdue seeks another full term, against former House staffer and failed 2017 congressional candidate Jon Ossoff. Appointed Republican senator Kelly Loeffler runs for the last two years of her term against pastor Raphael Warnock. Republicans have 50 senators; if the Democrats take both seats, control of the chamber will flip to the Democrats once Kamala Harris is sworn in as vice president on January 20.
That alone makes this double-runoff election crucial. It will determine the path of Joe Biden’s presidency. With a Democratic Senate, however narrowly composed, Biden can confirm any judge or Cabinet member he wants, so long as all Democrats are in support. With a Republican Senate, radical nominees can be stopped, and may not even be proposed. An early test of strength will come with Biden’s nominee to run the Department of Health and Human Services: California attorney general Xavier Becerra, a culture-warrior with no experience in medicine or management. With a Republican Senate, judicial nominations will not be rubber-stamped, and Stephen Breyer might think twice about retiring in favor of a younger, possibly more left-leaning justice.
Biden can get tax and spending bills through Congress with 50 Democratic senators; with a Republican Senate, he would be compelled to start from a posture requiring compromise. Republican-run committees could also provide oversight, deterring executive adventurism. No committee run by Democrats will offer meaningful oversight of Biden.
A Democratic Senate could also abolish the filibuster, changing the face of the Senate forever. Even the threat to do so would give Democrats leverage that they would not otherwise be able to wield.