Raphael Warnock’s win matters beyond Georgia

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Raphael Warnock’s Senate runoff win against Republican Herschel Walker in Georgia 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.) 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 Senate hopeful Mehmet Oz, go 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 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.

Namely, the rhetorical brick wall that is West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, who has often teamed with Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema 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. “… 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.”

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.

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.”

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 said earlier this week of a Warnock win, according to NPR. “It’s a world of difference.”

Copyright 2022 John L. Micek, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

An award-winning political journalist, John L. Micek is Editor-in-Chief of The Pennsylvania Capital-Star in Harrisburg, Pa. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @ByJohnLMicek.

An award-winning political journalist, John L. Micek is Editor-in-Chief of The Pennsylvania Capital-Star, a brand-new news venture that covers Pennsylvania politics and government honestly and aggressively.