By Terence Huie, NGA Manager of Grassroots and PAC
Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff have been declared the winners over their incumbent Republican opponents in Georgia’s two Senate races. These victories will give Democrats their first Senate majority since 2015 and trifecta control of Congress and the White House. Democrats will have the barest of majorities following their Peach State wins – the Senate will be divided evenly 50-50 and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will serve as the tiebreaker. Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler faced Ossoff and Warnock in a runoff after no candidate clinched 50% in the first round of voting last November.
NGA Grocers PAC supported both Perdue and Loeffler in their races in order to safeguard important policy priorities such as labor and tax reform. While the results of the 2020 elections and especially the Georgia runoffs are a surprise for many, NGA is in a solid position to engage with the new Congress on our top priorities – 92% of NGA Grocers-PAC supported candidates were elected to Congress in November.
So, now what happens in an evenly split Senate? Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris will find herself providing the 51st vote for Democrats (The VP serves the ceremonial role as Senate President and tiebreaker) making Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) the majority leader.
Twenty years ago, when the Senate last found itself evenly split, Republican and Democratic leadership worked out a power-sharing arrangement. Republicans retained committee chairmanships (based on then-Vice President Dick Cheney’s ability to break ties) and the prerogative to call hearings and schedule markups.
Committee slots were also evenly distributed between the two parties. In the event of a tie vote in committee, something that would usually kill a measure, both parties retained the right to bring the measure to the Senate floor. The arrangement didn’t last long. In May 2001, Senator Jim Jeffords left the GOP and joined the Democratic caucus, giving them a 51-49 majority. But during the few short months when it was in effect, the Senate operated fairly smoothly.
However, today’s hyper-partisan environment may make it impossible for the two parties to agree to a functional power-sharing arrangement. They may reach an impasse on organizing resolutions and it’s not inconceivable that a vote to eliminate the filibuster could occur in that context. The Senate has, however, navigated these circumstances in the past and its party leaders may arrive at an understanding.
If you have any questions, please contact a member of the Government Relations team:
Chris Jones, NGA’s Senior Vice President of Government Relations and Counsel at firstname.lastname@example.org;
Molly Pfaffenroth, NGA’s Senior Director of Government Relations, at email@example.com;
Robert Yeakel, NGA’s Director of Government Relations at firstname.lastname@example.org; or
Terence Huie, NGA’s PAC and Grassroots Manager at email@example.com.