Democrats take Senate majority, sealing control of the White House and Congress


Georgia Democratic Senate candidates Raphael Warnock (R) and Jon Ossoff (L) bump elbows during a “It’s Time to Vote” drive-in rally on December 28, 2020 in Stonecrest, Georgia.

Jessica McGowan | Getty Images

Democrats are expected take control of the Senate on Wednesday when three new members of the party are sworn in.

Democratic Senators-elect Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff of Georgia and appointee Alex Padilla of California are set to take office in the afternoon, bringing the Senate party split to 50-50. Newly inaugurated Vice President Kamala Harris, who will hold the chamber’s tiebreaking vote, is expected to swear in the three senators.

The narrow Democratic majority will give President Joe Biden a boost as he tries to fill out his Cabinet and pass an agenda headlined by a coronavirus relief package. Though incoming Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Democrats will decide what the Senate pursues, they will face a challenge in finding Republican support to pass most legislation.

Warnock, 51, and Ossoff, 33, won special elections last month that determined control of the chamber. They will become the first Black and Jewish senators, respectively, from Georgia.

Padilla, 47, was appointed by Gov. Gavin Newsom to fill Harris’ Senate seat when she resigned to become vice president. He becomes the first Latino senator from California.

Ossoff posted photos of the Georgia senators-elect at the presidential inauguration ceremonies on Wednesday. He wrote along with them, “Change has come to Georgia. Change is coming to America.”

Schumer, D-N.Y., and soon-to-be Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., have to come to an agreement on how to carry out Senate business in the coming weeks. They will need a power-sharing accord to decide how many members each party has on committees and how those panels resolve ties.

McConnell’s office has said that, as part of a deal, he wants to ensure the Senate preserves the filibuster. Some Democrats have called to get rid of the tool to allow bills to pass with a simple majority vote.

The Senate also has to set a structure for an impeachment trial for former President Donald Trump. The House charged him with inciting an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 but has not yet sent the impeachment article to the Senate.

Biden hopes the Senate can spend part of its time on the impeachment trial while still confirming executive branch nominees.

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