The fate of the cabinet elections of President-elect Joe Biden could lie in the hands of two senate seats in Georgia.
As of Monday morning, the Democrats, including the two senators who will join them as faction leaders, and the Republicans will each have 48 seats in the new Congress. It is expected that one seat each in North Carolina and Alaska will go to the Republicans, giving them 50 seats, so that the two seats in Georgia, which will be decided in a runoff election in January, will be the difference between Democrats and Republicans controlling the Senate.
If the Democrats manage to win both seats in Georgia, they will have half the seats in the Senate and the Republicans half. In the event of a 50/50 split, Kamala Harris will cast the deciding vote as vice president, making it easier for the Democrats to confirm Biden’s cabinet appointments.
The President has the responsibility to nominate individuals to fill various cabinet positions, but before he takes office, these must be confirmed by a majority vote in the Senate. Although it is rare for the Senate not to approve a candidate, it has done so nine times, the last time in 1989.
In 1989 the Democrats had control of the Senate when President George H.W. Bush nominated Senator John Tower for Secretary of Defense. After confirmation hearings on Tower’s alleged excessive drinking and an FBI investigation, the final vote was 53 to 47 against his nomination. Bush then nominated Dick Cheney, who was quickly confirmed.
Biden pledged to fill a cabinet with people who “really look like America,” and in his first speech, after the race was decided in his favor, said he wanted his administration to represent America.
It is likely that Republicans will challenge Biden’s candidates during the hearings, as they have done with many of President Donald Trump’s nominees. And if, as expected, they get seats in North Carolina and Alaska, a single seat in Georgia would give them enough votes to block confirmation. But since this is such a rare case, it is unlikely that the Republicans would use their majority control to prevent Biden from having the cabinet of his choice.
Washington Newsday approached the Biden campaign with a request for comment, but did not receive a response in time for publication.
Control of the Senate will only be determined after the January 5 runoff elections, when incumbent Republican Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler risk losing their seats. Perdue received 49.7 percent of the vote, putting him ahead of Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff with 47.9 percent. Loeffler, who was appointed to her seat in 2019, received 25.9 percent of the vote in a special election, behind Democratic challenger Raphael Warnock, who received 32.9 percent.
So why didn’t the Democrats get one seat and the Republicans another? In Georgia, a candidate must receive at least 50 percent of the votes or the two best candidates go into a runoff.
Given the influence that Georgia’s Senate elections could have on the Senate, both parties are putting their resources into the peach state.
“This will be the deciding factor in whether we have access to health care and justice in the United States – two issues that will ensure that people will prevail,” Stacey Abrams, who is credited with being a driving force in the election of Democrats in Georgia, said Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union program. “We know that this will be a tough fight. It will be a competitive struggle”.