The Republican midterm flameout is now official. Democrats have retained control of the US Senate. Here’s why that matters.
Four days after tens of millions of Americans went to the polls, Catherine Cortez Masto’s narrow victory in Nevada late on Saturday finally delivered a decisive result in the national political battle.
The Democrats now lead 50 seats to 49 in the upper chamber of the US Congress. Even if Republicans win the remaining Senate race in Georgia, Vice-President Kamala Harris will be able to cast a tie-breaking vote.
That’s been the case for the past two years, of course – and it paves the way for President Joe Biden to spend two more years filling the federal courts with his nominees and staffing his administration largely the way he sees fit.
Most significantly, should a Supreme Court seat become vacant due to an unexpected retirement or death of a justice, the Republicans would not be able to block Mr Biden’s choice. Democrats remember how back in 2016, then-Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell prevented Barack Obama’s nominee from getting a hearing at all.
The win in Nevada means the Georgia Senate run-off on 6 December is no longer a pivotal contest to determine control of the chamber. Mr Biden, however, said “it’s simply better” for Democrats to get to 51 seats. The extra cushion certainly makes it easier to manage a majority and it will also help in 2024 when the party will have more at-risk seats to defend.
There is still a likelihood, although not certainty, that the Republicans will control a slim majority in the House of Representatives, bringing a variety of headaches for the president.
His legislative agenda is dead, and more aggressive Republican oversight is in store, but even that has a silver lining – if his political opponents are unable to effectively govern due to internal discord.
The consequences of this history-defying midterm election result are still being revealed.
Donald Trump’s political future has been damaged, although how enduringly remains to be seen. Joe Biden’s standing within his party has been bolstered. The political world in the US looks considerably different than it did just a week ago.