Joe Biden’s turbulent confirmation on Capitol Hill as president overshadowed another Democratic victory. On Wednesday, January 6, the party won both senatorial seats in the state of Georgia. Democrats will thus have 50 seats in the Senate, the same number as Republicans. But, as the constitution provides, future vice-president Kamala Harris will have the power to decide the votes. It will tip the scales on the Democratic side.
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In the presidential election on November 3, Georgia, a conservative bastion, had already given the majority to Democrat Joe Biden. Tuesday, January 5, she narrowly elected Jon Ossoff, documentary producer. At 33, he became the youngest Democratic senator since a certain Joe Biden in 1973. The second Democratic senator, Raphael Warnock, a pastor of an Atlanta church where Martin Luther King officiated, became the first black senator elected in this southern state.
“Democrats will have to compromise”
This Democratic victory in the Senate is a surprise. If she can facilitate Joe Biden’s presidency, she will not resolve all oppositions. “This advantage is important, of course, but the Democrats will have to compromise” summarizes Jérôme Viala-Gaudefroy, lecturer at Sciences-Po. He recalls the difficulty that President Barack Obama had in 2010 in passing his health care law – Obamacare – when he had a majority of 58 senators, more comfortable than that of Joe Biden. “When the majority of laws are passed, a senator can obstruct. It is then possible to remove this obstacle, but by the vote of a “super majority” of three fifths “ explains Jérôme Viala-Gaudefroy. To win the vote, Barack Obama had to convince two independent senators.
In this new Senate with a fragile majority, centrist senators, such as Democrat Joe Manchin or Republicans Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski and Mitt Romney, will play a major role. Joe Manchin supports Democrats in economics and foreign policy, but risks opposing any environmental policies that threaten the mining industry in his state of West Virginia.
Joe Biden knows the secrets of the Senate. He maintains old ties with Mitch McConnell. The leader of the Republican senators could be inclined to compromise, his “Party coming out of this crisis very weakened by internal divisions”, specifies Jérôme Viala-Gaudefroy. Another advantage for Joe Biden, the obligation of “Super majority” is no longer necessary for the appointment of the hundreds of judges to be approved by the Senate, as for the budget vote which is done by simple majority. It is also the Senate which confirms the appointments of senior officials.
The return to the Paris agreement will take work
Even obtained on a razor’s edge, the majority will allow the Democrats to control the Senate Committees, where the texts are written and parliamentary inquiries are carried out. The president’s party will also decide on the reform agenda to be passed. He could get $ 2,000 (€ 1,700) in financial aid approved for every American (a measure hitherto blocked by Mitch McConnell), a minimum hourly wage of $ 15 (€ 12.5) nationwide, a student debt relief, an extension of Obamacare.
Under these conditions, believes Jérôme Viala-Gaudefroy, the return to the Paris climate agreement, from which his predecessor had withdrawn, will be more complicated than hoped. “This will require passing a law that benefits from the super majority, then presenting this text to the Supreme Court, the majority of whose members have been appointed by Republican presidents. “