Biden and Democrats Land US Senate Outright Majority

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Senate

Warnock’s victory in Georgia gives Democrats a thin 51-seat Senate majority, but it still represents an improvement over the previous two years, when they couldn’t risk losing a single post.

Senate
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from New York, speaks during a news conference at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, US, on Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2022. [Al Drago/Bloomberg/Getty Images]

Senate Legislative Agenda Pathway

Because of Warnock’s victory in Georgia, Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema have substantially less influence over Biden’s agenda. Manchin and Sinema’s influence will not fade away. Given that both are up for reelection in 2024, they will likely maintain their bipartisan reputations. They are among the twenty Democrats in the upcoming election cycle, as opposed to the 10 seats Republicans must defend.

The moderate Democrats have not changed their minds about abolishing the filibuster. In contrast, Biden has asked for a filibuster exception that specifically protects the freedom to vote and the right to an abortion. Both are effectively gone in the upcoming Congress.

Democrats, unlike in the past, can now afford to lose Manchin or Sinema’s support.

Biden remarked at a Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee reception on Friday, “Joe Manchin is a terrific person; he truly is.”

But, regarding environmental issues, Joe has a different viewpoint and speaks for a diverse group of people than most of us. So the Arizona senator is treated similarly.”

The standoff, though, will extend beyond the two senators. The hard-fought climate and healthcare bill, officially called the Inflation Reduction Act, will not be passed by Democrats alone because Republicans will control the US House in the forthcoming Congress.

In her November 28 newsletter, Henrietta Treyz, head of economic policy research at Veda Partners, forecasted the 51-49 Senate divide, saying, “Expect stalemate out of Washington next year and deadlock on practically every issue.”

Legislators may agree that legislation is required to address antitrust, cryptocurrencies, and social media issues. However, according to her, “they’ll find little points of difference that will kill any real possibility of bipartisanship.”

According to Treyz, bipartisanship would be necessary only in extreme instances. As a result, the debt ceiling and government spending bills are the only large trains leaving the station for the next two years.

During Biden’s first term, the president gained bipartisan support for infrastructure bills and gun control. According to Doug Heye, a former seasoned Republican aide, doing so could grow more difficult before the 2024 election.

“Politics gets a lot harder,” Heye noted.

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Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona. [Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images, Win McNamee/Getty Images, and Drew Angerer/Getty Images]

It’s difficult to see right now. You’ll hear about immigration and energy, among other things. But transporting such things is difficult.”

Even though Democrats did not control both chambers, former President Barack Obama could sign the legislation into law. However, legislation incorporating allowances for medical improvements was passed as he prepared to leave office.

Democrats retain the authority to move legislation out of committee and bring it to a vote. Instead, the Senate routinely votes on legislation that is not intended to become law but rather to send a message about their priorities ahead of the 2024 presidential election or to put the opposing party on the record on a particular issue.

“This will allow us to set the national agenda on isues like minimum wage, child care, challenging big monopolies, the child tax credit, creating more jobs, taking on Big Oil to combat climate change, ensuring legal contraception, protecting democracy, and so much more,” Schumer wrote in a letter to the PCCC on Tuesday.

In either situation, Democrats are less likely to urge Vice President Kamala Harris to vote on the Senate floor to break ties. Instead, the vice president has had to lead these rescue efforts 26 times in the last two years.

Furthermore, Biden is expected to rely heavily on executive action to achieve his agenda.

However, there is a potential that a future Republican president will find it easier to reverse his judgments. Many of Biden’s executive orders, notably the one on student loan forgiveness, will also be challenged in court.

Heye stated on any issue where he perceives a roadblock. “We’ll watch Biden sign something,”

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Sarah Bloom Raskin, nominee to be vice chairman for supervision and a member of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors before a Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill on February 3, 2022 in Washington, DC. [Ken Cedeno-Pool/Getty Images]

An extra vote lends Biden wiggle room

Democrats may still use their influence as committee chairmen to widen their investigations of the Trump administration, especially now that the former president has officially announced his run for the presidency in 2024.

They will also profit from other things. For example, the ruling party controls the standing committees, whose leaders determine the hearing dates, select the issues to investigate and decide which administration officials or business executives to bring to Capitol Hill for questioning.

Under the power-sharing arrangement since 2021, Republican and Democratic senators served evenly on each panel. When committee votes were tied, Democrats were forced to hold additional votes on the Senate floor, which hindered their regular business.

Democrats will have an additional vote of wiggle room to deal with for Biden’s judicial and agency nominations, giving Biden more opportunity to nominate his best selections, even those who might have been too contentious when facing a tight majority.

Last year, Manchin joined the Republican filibuster of Neera Tanden’s nomination to lead the Office of Management and Budget. Tanden later withdrew from contention for the post owing to her history of tweeting, but not before Manchin opposed her nomination. She is presently the White House staff secretary, a position that did not require Senate confirmation.

In March of last year, the West Virginia legislator opposed Sarah Bloom Raskin’s nomination as a senior financial regulator at the Federal Reserve, thus stopping the nomination. Later that month, Sinema, Manchin, and Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly of Arizona voted against David Weil’s nomination to lead the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division; every Republican senator also opposed the decision.

Federal judges are one type of nominee whose confirmation will be expedited. As of Tuesday, 90 of Biden’s candidates had secured Democratic confirmation, which could swing the ideological scales of the judiciary given the conservative supermajority on the Supreme Court.

It also increases the likelihood that, if another vacancy arises, Biden will suggest a more liberal Supreme Court nominee.

Without a doubt, it will make life easier for the Biden administration, but Heye pointed out that a 51-seat majority was at stake. “By no means is this a runaway majority,” the speaker remarked.

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