9 min read

Does Georgia matter?

Next week’s runoff might not decide control of the Senate — but it will still have important consequences.
Does Georgia matter?

Good morning! It’s Tuesday, November 29, 2022. The Georgia runoff is seven days away. The 2024 elections are 707 days away.

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How much does the Georgia runoff matter?

Stop me if this sounds familiar: Election Day may have been three weeks ago, but the winner of the last Senate seat in the country remains up in the air — and it won’t be decided until a follow-up election is held next week in Georgia.

In case that rings a bell or two, it’s because this is the second consecutive election in which that’s happened.

But there’s a big difference between the Georgia runoff taking place next Tuesday and the two that took place in 2021: those runoffs determined control of the Senate, whereas this time around, Democrats have already notched the 50 seats necessary to run the chamber come January.

So why does next week’s runoff election still matter? Here are four dynamics that will hinge on the outcome of the race between Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican former football star Herschel Walker:

The balance of Senate committees

This may sound like a small issue, but it actually carries big consequences for what the Senate is able to get done. Democrats have controlled the 50-50 Senate for the past two years because of Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote — but they have still been subject to a power-sharing agreement that had to be hammered out with Republicans because neither party commands a true majority. (You may recall that Mitch McConnell briefly tried to hold up the agreement to secure a commitment that the filibuster would be protected.)

Under the agreement that was eventually reached, all Senate committees are split exactly down the middle, with both parties allotted equal representation on each one — which leads to a lot of tied committee votes. Nominations or pieces of legislation can still advance to the floor if a committee ties, but it requires an extra floor vote discharging the matter from the committee, which can drag out the already lengthy Senate voting process and eat up valuable floor time.

One place where this has a big impact is judicial nominations, since the frequent discharge votes are an obstacle to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s efforts to confirm as many of President Biden’s nominees as possible. Especially next year, when the divided Congress will make confirming judges an even bigger priority for Senate Democrats, these discharge votes could take up a lot of time. With federal judges often the final decision-makers on some of the most controversial issues in American life, the difference made by each one confirmed can be sweeping.

If Walker wins the runoff, the Senate will remain in a 50-50 deadlock, allowing Republicans to continue slowing down Democratic efforts to fill the bench with Biden picks. But if Warnock wins and the balance of the Senate tips to 51-49, no more power-sharing agreement will be needed, giving Democrats a true majority on Senate committees and the ability to speed through the floor process at least a little faster.

Kamala Harris’ schedule

Back in September, you might remember the column I wrote about Kamala Harris’ vice presidency — and the response I received from vice presidential scholar Joel Goldstein.

One of the things Joel mentioned as an obstacle that has hampered Harris during her tenure was the 50-50 Senate. As the chamber’s resident tie-breaker, Harris has spent the two years practically always on call — needing to be ready to head to the Capitol at any moment in case she needs to cast the decisive vote on a bill or nomination. (Harris has taken to quoting former Vice President Al Gore’s line on the unique power of the VP’s vote: “Every time I vote, we win.”)

In fact, just in the past two years, Harris has cast more tie-breaking votes than any other vice president in history during a single term. A 50-50 Senate would keep Harris chained to the Senate rostrum for two more years; a 51-49 split, many of her allies believe, would allow her to travel more and give her more time to get out and refine her image in the eyes of the voters.

A 51-49 Senate could give Kamala Harris some breathing room. (White House)

The power of Manchinema

Or was it Sinemanchin? I’m referring, of course, to the powerful duo of Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), who have flexed their muscles in the 50-50 Senate like no others — and ensured that nothing would get passed without their sign-off.

Unless Manchin or Sinema bends in their commitment to the filibuster (which won’t matter much anyways considering the House will be in Republican hands), a 51-49 Senate likely won’t mean an end to the longtime Senate procedure: Democrats would still need support from one of them to do so. But a 51-49 split would give Democrats some breathing room on key votes, allowing Manchin or Sinema (or any other Democrat) to break with the party without any cost.

As we’ll discuss in a moment, this could be a valuable lever for the many vulnerable Democrats up for re-election in 2024 (including Manchin); if Republicans keep the Senate at 50-50, they would deny Democrats this ability and force the party to stand united on every vote.

A head-start on 2024

The 2022 elections may not be over, but it’s never too early to look at 2024. And that cycle’s Senate map will be a lopsided one: Democrats will have 23 seats to defend, compared to just 10 for Republicans.

To make matters worse for Democrats, several of their incumbents will be running in red states (Sherrod Brown in Ohio, Manchin in West Virginia, Jon Tester in Montana) or swing states (Tammy Baldwin in Wisconsin, Bob Casey in Pennsylvania, Jacky Rosen in Nevada, Kyrsten Sinema in Arizona, Debbie Stabenow in Michigan).

On the other hand, every Republican will be running in a state won by Donald Trump in 2020.

With that reality in mind, it would be a big leg-up for Democrats if they can secure Warnock’s seat in Georgia and pad their Senate majority heading into 2024. If Walker wins, on the other hand, Republicans will be that much closer to flipping the Senate — just one seat away for the second consecutive election.    

The 2024 Senate map. (Ballotpedia)

Speaking of Georgia...

Here are some updates from the Peach State campaign trail:

  • More than 500,000 Georgians have already cast early votes in the runoff. Most of those votes were cast on Monday, when the state’s single-day early voting record was shattered.
  • Campaigning has turned bitter in the final week, the AP reports, as both candidates run ads featuring their rivals’ ex-wives.
  • Despite pushing Walker to run in the first place, former President Donald Trump is not expected to hold a rally for his longtime friend, per the New York Times. That’s a change from the 2021 runoffs, when Trump traveled to Georgia twice to campaign.

🚨 What else you should know

RAILROADS: “President Joe Biden on Monday asked Congress to intervene and block a railroad strike before next month’s deadline in the stalled contract talks, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said lawmakers would take up legislation this week to impose the deal that unions agreed to in September.” AP

CHINA: The Biden administration is “responding cautiously to weekend protests across China,” Politico notes. President Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and national security adviser Jake Sullivan have all avoided commenting so far; a White House spokesperson said Monday that Biden believes the protesters have the right to demonstrate but added that they can “speak for themselves.”

TRUMP: A stream of Republicans came forward on Monday to condemn former President Trump’s dinner with a pair of anti-semites, including several GOP senators, former Vice President Mike Pence, and some of Trump’s most prominent Jewish allies. Trump has yet to denounce the views espoused by either of his dinner guests.

INVESTIGATIONS: With about a month to go before it dissolves, the House January 6 committee is rushing to finish up its investigation. The panel held a five-hour interview with former Trump senior adviser Kellyanne Conway on Monday; former Trump deputy chief of staff and onetime Secret Service official Tony Ornato is set to be interviewed today.

ELECTIONS: Republican officials in Arizona and Pennsylvania refused to certify their county election results on Monday, despite any evidence of systemic problems with the vote. In Arizona, the secretary of state’s office is suing to force the county officials to certify.

RIP: Rep. Donald McEachin (D-VA) died on Monday at age 61, after nearly a decade of battling colorectal cancer. McEachin was re-elected earlier this month; his death will leave the seat vacant until a special election is held in the heavily Democratic district.

Rep. Donald McEachin passed away on Monday. (Twitter)

🗓 What your leaders are doing today

All times Eastern. Click on an event’s time to watch it.

Executive Branch

President Biden will receive his daily intelligence briefing (9 am) and meet with congressional leaders from both parties to discuss legislative priorities for the rest of the year (10:30 am).

Afterward, he’ll travel to Bay City, Michigan, where he’ll tour a semiconductor material manufacturing facility (2:35 pm) and deliver remarks on his economic agenda (3:30 pm) before returning to Washington.

Vice President Harris has nothing on her public schedule.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre will hold a press gaggle aboard Air Force One during the flight to Michigan.

Legislative Branch

The Senate will convene (12 p.m.) and finish consideration of the Respect for Marriage Act, which would codify federal protections for same-sex and interracial marriages.

This afternoon, the chamber will vote on three Republican amendments to the bill and then on final passage of the bill itself. Per a bipartisan agreement to accelerate the measure, it will need 60 votes to pass, a threshold it should reach after advancing in a 61-35 vote on Monday.

The House will convene (2 pm) and vote throughout the day on up to 18 pieces of legislation, including measures to respond to China’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims, condemn Iran’s treatment of Baha’i people, and provide doula services to pregnant veterans.

Committee meetings will include a House Rules hearing on proposed rules changes for the next Congress (2 pm) and a Senate Judiciary hearing on the proposed merger between supermarket chains Kroger and Albertsons (3 pm).

Judicial Branch

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in United States v. Texas (10 am). The case stems from challenges to a Biden administration policy prioritizing certain groups of undocumented immigrants over others for arrest and deportation. Under the policy, the government focuses on deporting suspected terrorists, criminals, and those recently caught at the border, while largely ignoring other immigrants who arrived in the U.S. illegally.

Per SCOTUSBlog, the plaintiffs — the states of Texas and Louisiana — will argue that federal law requires the government to arrest and deport as many undocumented immigrants as it can identify. The Biden administration will argue that ruling for the states “would have sweeping implications – not only for immigration policy but also for states’ ability to sue the federal government when they disagree with its actions.”

👋 Before I go...

Here’s a fun story: Everything needs to be cleaned — even Michelangelo’s David.

And the New York Times interviewed Eleanor Pucci, the woman whose job it is to do it. As the in-house restorer of the Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence, Italy, it is up to Pucci to dust David six times a year.

The Times captured Pucci at work, explaining the process of maintaining one of the world’s most famous statues — and what it means to Pucci.

“To be able to contribute, even in a small way, to the conservation of David’s beauty” makes it “the best job in the world,” Pucci told the Times. “Is there anything greater than passing on beauty?”

Here’s the story:

When Visiting Michelangelo’s David, She Brings a Duster
The revered statue in Italy is not going to dust itself. That’s where Eleonora Pucci comes in.

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— Gabe