A Look at The Balance of Power

On December 6th,  Democrats won a 51st seat in the Senate, yet would have had a majority regardless. Why does it matter? Why did Democrats spend so much money and energy into this seat?

I can answer this in the same way I would answer the question when there is a supermajority. Yes, the rest of the representatives matter. Of course it does. But it is important that your representative has the values and goals you do. They should be someone who you can be proud of; someone who you want young kids to look up to. A community member who has earned the position to represent the intricacies of your neighborhood. 

Nevertheless, this idealism doesn’t typically account for $401 million dollars to be spent on a race. It is hard to quantify this type of money, not to mention the total $1.4 billion that had been spent in Georgia, just in the last four years.

Having a 51st vote has significant consequences. It relieves Vice President Harris from having to babysit the Senate and being ready to cast votes to break a tie. Democrats’ 51st seat, Senator Warnock (and Senator-elect Fetterman of PA as well) have allowed Harris to return to the normal roles of a vice president. 

The seat gives the majority party control over committees, meaning they aren’t slowed down by procedural rules. Especially the Judicial committee, which  can confirm judges without the opposing party trying to deadlock the process. Other committees will be able to successfully vote to issue subpoenas, including for corporations.

51 seats also means that a Democratic senator can still be absent or allow a Democrat to throw a protest vote which may help their chances in their 2024 election, and still have Kamala Harris cast the deciding vote. This is especially true for Joe Manchin from West Virginia, a historically and currently conservative leaning state, his ability to display independence from his party could be the defining factor between winning and losing his re-election. 

Krysten Sinema, though, caused a major change to the story. She was to face a tough primary, where In a Democratic +.5 state, usually a Democrat can win an election. Sinema, on the other hand, does not have that same advantage; she has used her votes to garner attention. She was a Democrat rarely attending caucus meetings. Recently, Sinema decided to change her party affiliation to Independent, but has decided to keep her committee assignments, despite caucusing with neither party and making no major impact to the political structure of the Senate. Her vote was never reliable and remains so. Warnock’s win has become ever more critical for President Biden and Democrats to continue with their agenda.

Even if one or even two Democrats can be absent, 51 seats mean there can still be a vote. A more efficient system that allows for flexibility and works better for the people if votes are not limited to when all Senators are present, as well as the vice president.