Georgia Election: Who controls a 50-50 Senate?

Georgia Election: Who controls a 50-50 Senate?
Two months after the November election, Georgia voters are heading to the polls for twin Senate runoff elections. (Source: Gray DC)

WASHINGTON (Gray DC) -Two months after the November election, Georgia voters are heading to the polls for twin Senate runoff elections. The stakes are high, as Tuesday’s results will determine partisan control of the U.S Senate.

Why is Georgia still voting?

State election rules require a candidate to receive a majority of the votes cast in order to be declared the winner. Neither incumbent Sens. David Perdue (R-GA) or Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) met the required numbers to win in November.

Democratic challengers Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock aim to flip both of the state’s open U.S Senate seats.

What could happen?

If one or both Republican Senators Perdue or Loeffler win, Republicans will have the majority and keep control of the chamber.

However, if both Ossoff and Warnock prevail, Michael Thorning with the Bipartisan Policy Center says there would be a 50-50 tie in the U.S Senate, assuming Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’s seat is filled by a Democrat.

He breaks it all down here.

Who controls a tied Senate?

As for tied votes, Thorning says the constitution dictates protocol, but unlike the U.S House of Representatives, leadership is not.

“The Vice President breaks any tie votes that should come up, but the implications are bigger than that,” said Thorning. “In the past, the way the Senate has worked is that the party of the Vice President gets to be the majority party.”

The majority party gets to determine the agenda, what bills are voted on, shaping the floor debates, etc.

Throning says we’ve seen a tied Senate before. Following the 2000 election, Sens. Tom Daschle (D-SD) and Trent Lott (R-MS) formed a power-sharing agreement to guide the chamber.

Under that agreement, Lott was recognized as the majority leader and both parties were to attempt to balance the schedule and agenda.

“Vice President Cheney tipped the scales, if you will, for Republicans,” said Thorning, “So, they came up with a formal agreement of how they would share power in this time.”

If a similar split happens again, Thorning says another agreement would likely be reached, and the Senate reins could be handed back to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

Following the Jan 20th Presidential inauguration, Democrats will control both the White House and U.S House of Representatives.

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