5 Reasons Why The Georgia Senate Runoff Remains Extremely Important
Even with a divided Congress next term, the difference in one Senate seat can be huge over the next two years.
November 21, 2022 at 8:41 pm
As control of Congress has officially become split, with Democrats holding on to the Senate and Republicans winning a narrow majority in the House of Representatives, one major race remains outstanding. Senator Raphael Warnock yet again faces a runoff election in Georgia, this time against Herschel Walker.
Although Georgia will not decide control of the Senate as it did in last year’s January runoff, the race is still extremely important. Here are five reasons why.
Shifting the political leaning of the Senate
Although Democrats have held control of the Senate throughout Joe Biden’s presidency, the presence of conservative Democratic Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have often prevented the party from passing key legislation, such as filibuster reform that would have allowed voting rights protections to be put into law. Having just one extra Democrat in the Senate, which would be the outcome if Warnock keeps his seat, would give the Democrats extra room to pass such reforms in the Senate. A victory for Walker, by contrast, would keep the status quo and prevent more progressive changes from passing in the Senate.
Passing new legislation
Some may think that what happens in the Senate won’t matter now that Republicans will be taking over the House of Representatives, but things won’t necessarily be deadlocked for the next two years. Though Republicans have taken the House, their majority will be very small. This creates the possibility that some Democratic-inspired legislation could pass the House if just a few Republicans decide to break ranks. Earlier this week, 12 Republican Senators broke with their colleagues to support a Democratic bill protecting same-sex and interracial marriages, showing that crossing the aisle is still possible in this climate. Depending on how small the Republican majority is, there’s even the possibility that power in the House could change hands again before 2024 if a few Republican representatives retire or resign early, as has been the case in the past, and are replaced by Democrats. Given these eventualities, having a stronger Democratic control of the Senate could become relevant to passing important legislation.
Appointing judges and other officials
Even with the House in Republican hands, certain responsibilities fall strictly to the Senate. This includes confirmation of presidential appointments, such as federal judges, cabinet officials, and ambassadors. Having a firm majority in the Senate will help the Biden administration fill these positions. Such power could become very important, for instance, if a Supreme Court position unexpectedly becomes open. Given the court’s rightward shift, solidified when Trump was able to appoint three ultra-conservative justices during his term, having a clear majority in place to appoint liberal justices could have a huge impact on the court’s direction for many years to come. Given the impact that the courts have had on everything from abortion to affirmative action, even one extra vote from Democrats or Republicans in the Senate could have a huge impact on what the courts look like far into the future.
Control of the Senate in 2024
Even if Republicans are able to limit Democrats’ agenda over the next two years, control of the Senate will again become an issue in 2024. That election will be especially tough for Democrats, as most of the seats up for reelection are currently held by Democratic Senators, and some of those sitting legislators may end up retiring rather than running again. Having Warnock in office give Democrats a small bit of cushion as they again try not to lose the Senate in 2024, while having Herschel Walker representing Georgia will make it one seat easier for Republicans to take the Senate in the next election.
Deciding whether person or politics matters the most
The race between Warnock and Walker will also be important for determining whether individual personality and character or ideological compliance is the most important consideration for electing members of Congress or other high offices. Rev. Warnock’s campaigns have highlighted his personal characters and accomplishments as the leader of the congregation once pastored by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Although Walker’s campaign also initially highlighted his personal accomplishments as a renowned football player, Walker’s life soon became a liability, as multiple scandals have hit him throughout his campaign. Nevertheless, Walker has stayed on message, supporting the Republican agenda and Donald Trump and thus maintaining the support of party members willing to ignore his personal shortcomings. Given this contrast, the outcome of the Warnock vs Walker race will help to demonstrate what consideration – personal character or party loyalty – is more important to voters in 2022.
The runoff election between Warnock and Walker will be held on Tuesday, Dec. 6. Early voting for the runoff will begin on Nov. 28.