Raphael Warnock’s Georgia win matters to Pa. This is why

by John L. Micek, Pennsylvania Capital-Star
December 8, 2022

U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock’s, D-Ga., runoff win against Republican Herschel Walker on Tuesday night was a big deal in a lot of ways.

For one thing, Warnock, the pastor of the storied Ebenezer Baptist Church (once ministered by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.) in Atlanta, is now the first Black man to be elected to a full six-year Senate term in the Peach State’s history.

For another, it delivered yet another midterm loss to former President Donald Trump, who saw most of his handpicked candidates, including vanquished Pennsylvania GOP U.S. Senate hopeful Mehmet Ozgo down to defeat.

That’s bad news that the already bruised Trump, who’s reignited his White House ambitions, can ill afford.

Keep in mind, this was supposed to be a disastrous midterm cycle for Democrats and President Joe Biden. Instead, Democrats nipped and tucked GOP gains in the U.S. House, and expanded their Senate majority. And that’s a mere two years after Trump lost the White House.

Which brings us back to Pennsylvania, which handed Biden his White House win in 2020.

Warnock’s win over Walker, a former football star, cements U.S. Sen.-elect John Fetterman, D-Pa., as the 51st Democratic vote in the upper chamber, with both men solving a major political and policy headache for Biden as the president heads into the back half of his first term. Democratic U.S. Senate candidate John Fetterman addresses supporters in Pittsburgh on Tuesday, 11/8/22 (Capital-Star photo by Kim Lyons)

Namely, the rhetorical brick wall that is U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who has often teamed with U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., to derail key components of Biden’s first-term agenda. That includes the sprawling Build Back Better bill, which eventually was resurrected as the scaled-back, but no less ambitious, Inflation Reduction Act.

“When you have a vote of 50/50 in the Senate … that means you got 50 presidents,” Biden told volunteers during a pro-Warnock event in Boston last week, The Hill, a publication that covers Congress, reported.

“… We’re a diverse party. And — but we still have all stuck together on the major, major issues. And one of the things that we need — we need that 51st vote,” Biden said, according to The Hill.

It also means that Vice President Kamala Harris, who presides over the Senate, will be called on less frequently to cast a potentially tie-breaking vote, as was the case in August when the Senate advanced the administration’s climate and healthcare bill.

Fetterman, Pennsylvania’s lieutenant governor, vowed during the campaign that he’d become the 51st vote for Democrats if Keystone State voters picked him over Oz, a celebrity physician and political newcomer with no previous experience and dubious residency credentials.

“I’m running to serve Pennsylvania. Oz is running to use Pennsylvania,” Fetterman said during a late-October rally in Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

Pennsylvania Democrats wasted little time Wednesday celebrating both Warnock’s win, and what they argued was Fetterman’s elevated status in the political firmament.

“Democrats said from day one that we were planning on protecting and expanding the Senate majority and [on Tuesday] night we delivered,” Jack Doyle, a spokesperson for the state Democratic Party said in a statement. “We cannot wait to see this new expanded majority fighting for families and workers across the country.” President Joe Biden at the Volvo Group USA truck parts manufacturing plant in Hagerstown, Md. on Friday 10/7/22 (Photo by Josh Kurtz/Maryland Matters).

To be sure, Warnock’s win is hardly a cure-all for the White House. The narrow Republican margin in the U.S. House still means that it will be hard for Biden to push through major pieces of legislation.

But in other key ways, such as winning approval for judicial and political nominations, and clearing key procedural hurdles, the 51-vote margin is critical for Democrats. They also will no longer have to rely on an uneasy power-sharing relationship with the GOP, and who will take full control of Senate committees, as The Hill reports.

“The truth is it’s not a 1 percent difference,” Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.said earlier this week of a Warnock win, according to NPR. “It’s a world of difference.”

Pennsylvania Capital-Star is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Pennsylvania Capital-Star maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor John Micek for questions: info@penncapital-star.com. Follow Pennsylvania Capital-Star on Facebook and Twitter.

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The Pennsylvania Capital-Star is a nonpartisan, nonprofit news site dedicated to honest and aggressive coverage of state government, politics and policy.

The nearly 13 million people who call the commonwealth home depend on their interests being safeguarded by one of the nation’s largest, most expensive, and often inefficient and corrupt full-time state legislatures. The actions of the legislative, executive and judicial branches touch on almost every aspect of Pennsylvanians’ daily lives.

Since our launch in February 2019, the Capital-Star has emerged as a go-to source for in-depth original reporting, explainers on complex topics, features that ground policy debates, as well as progressive commentary on a range of issues.

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