Several big developments could pave the way for three new Democratic Senators to take office shortly after President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris are sworn in on Wednesday.
According to Punchbowl News, Democrats Jon Ossoff (GA), Raphael Warnock (GA) and Alex Padilla (CA) are set to become the Senate’s newest members as early as Inauguration Day. On Monday, Vice President-elect Harris resigned from the Senate seat that she was elected to in 2016 as she prepares to begin her duties as Vice President.
In Georgia, Ossoff and Warnock were certified by the Secretary of State’s office as the winners of the two blockbuster January 5 Senate runoffs on Tuesday afternoon. All 159 counties certified their results last Friday, and those results must then be finalized by the Secretary of State the following week.
Each of these three incoming Senators are set to make history when they are sworn in. Warnock, who is the pastor of Atlanta’s historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, became the first Black Senator in Georgia history when he unseated appointed Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler earlier this month. He is also the first Black Democrat elected to the Senate in the Deep South.
Ossoff, a 33-year-old documentary filmmaker and a former congressional candidate, defeated Republican Sen. David Perdue in this month’s runoff election and will become Georgia’s first Jewish Senator, the youngest member of the Senate and the youngest Democrat elected to the Senate since Joe Biden, who was 30 years old when he first took office in 1973.
Padilla, who currently serves as California’s Secretary of State, was widely speculated as a top contender for Harris’ seat shortly after Biden selected her to be his running mate. Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that he would appoint Padilla to the seat late last year. He is set to become the first Hispanic Senator in the history of California, a state where Hispanics make up nearly 40% of the population.
All three are set to be sworn in at a critical time: the House of Representatives recently impeached President Trump for a second time following the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. The Senate is set to begin the trial shortly after Biden is sworn in, which means these three new Senators should be seated in time for the trial to begin.
Assuming that all three are sworn in on the same day, Padilla will have a seniority advantage by virtue of California being a larger state than Georgia. Ossoff will become Georgia’s senior Senator because he was elected to a full six-year term, whereas Warnock will be completing the remaining two years of Johnny Isakson’s term. (You can read more about Senate seniority here.)
The Senate will be evenly divided when they are sworn in, with 50 Republicans, 48 Democrats and 2 Independents who caucus with the Democrats. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, who will also serve as President of the Senate, is obligated to act as a tie-breaking vote. Though the Senate is tied, Democrats will control the Senate because Harris is Vice President.
It’s a major boost for Biden’s legislative priorities. Among other things, he has promised to pass another round of COVID-19 relief in the first weeks of his presidency. A Democratic-controlled Senate means it will also be easier for Biden’s cabinet and judicial nominees to be confirmed. Though left-wing priorities such as the Green New Deal and abolishing the filibuster could prove to be a tall order with Joe Manchin being the deciding vote.
A 50-50 Senate is going to be difficult for Biden to work with, especially in this incredibly polarized era of politics. But he definitely has the upper hand with Chuck Schumer as the Majority Leader instead of Mitch McConnell.