With Raphael Warnock’s victory in Georgia, Democrats have officially secured 51 seats and an outright majority in the U.S. Senate.
Warnock beat MAGA Republican Herschel Walker on Tuesday night with, coincidentally, almost 51 percent of the vote. His win means that Democrats now have an outright 51–49 majority in the Senate, instead of a 50–50 split with a tiebreak.
And that one-seat difference is huge: “It’s big. It’s significant. We can breathe a sigh of relief,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told a press conference on Wednesday. “It gives us … just a great feeling, enthusiasm, unity, encouragement.”
Crucially, the Senate now has a rock-solid majority to block certain measures by the House of Representatives. Republicans eked out control of the chamber during the midterms and have already promised a raft of somewhat petty moves, such as investigating Hunter Biden and impeaching members of President Joe Biden’s Cabinet.
The Senate, which tries impeachment cases, can acquit anyone put forward. It can also block unnecessary investigations or legislation.
House Republicans have previously indicated they have some traditionally conservative plans, such as supporting tax cuts and reducing government spending. But they have also pledged to ban trans women from playing in women’s sports and to seek to restrict abortion access.
Democrats also now hold the majority of votes in Senate committees, which means investigations and legislation will move much more quickly. The Senate will also be able to approve presidential nominees, including for judges, more easily.
And last, the party no longer has to be fully unified to achieve its goals. Before, if a single senator—usually Kyrsten Sinema or Joe Manchin—broke ranks, it could tank a bill or nomination. But now Democrats have a little more wiggle room.
Most legislation in the Senate requires a 60-vote minimum to pass, though, so Democrats will still need to negotiate with Republicans in order to get bills through.
With the 2024 election cycle already approaching, it’s hugely important for Democrats to leverage their newfound power, even if it seems slim, and pass major legislation. The more they are able to accomplish in the next two years, the better positioned they will be to hold onto the Senate and maybe even retake the House.