Creating a 50-50 split in the Senate would require the sitting Vice-president, Kamala Harris to cast the deciding vote for any legislation that is split along party lines, creating an interesting situation that could influence the Biden presidency.
Digital Journal reached out to Dr. Rich Cifaldi, a former instructor of U.S. History with the University of Virginia, asking Cifaldi how much of an impact having control of both houses of Congress would place on the Biden presidency?
Dr. Cifaldi pointed out that should both Georgia runoff contests end up with both Democrats, Raphael Warnock, and Jon Ossoff, winning, it will be the first time since 2009 that Democrats have had control of the White House and both houses of Congress.
Cifaldi added: “But this power will likely not last too long. The last four times that a President, of either party, went into a midterm election with unified control, voters have revoked it. Furthermore, no political party has controlled the Presidency, House, and Senate for more than four consecutive years since 1968.”
“The Democrats, therefore, would have likely only two years to pass legislation without Republican interference. Even still, the Republicans could use the filibuster to block any Democrat-led legislation. The filibuster is the Senate rule which requires 60 senators, instead of a simple majority of 51 senators, to move forward on most legislation.”
So the real question becomes: what is the lasting impact of the Democrats winning control of the Senate in 2021? It comes down to this – “The Democrats will need to start with abolishing the filibuster and the supermajority voting threshold of 60 votes in the US Senate.”
“It is quite common for political parties in power to pass legislation, only to see this same legislation reversed by the opposing party two years later. But the real lasting impact of the Democrats winning control of the Senate is the simple fact that much of the legislation that they will pass cannot be undone by the Republicans for years to come,” Cifaldi says.
The statehood question under the Biden Presidency
In June 2020, the House of Representatives made history by voting for Washington D.C. to become the nation’s 51st state, but the move, a push for equal representation in Congress for the capital’s residents, was already doomed in the Senate.
More than 705,000 Americans live in the District of Columbia, a Democratic stronghold with a population greater than two states, Wyoming and Vermont, and comparable to two others.
On Nov. 3, while Americans were voting in one of the most divisive presidential elections in modern history, Puerto Ricans decisively voted in favor of becoming the 51st U.S. state, electing pro-statehood Pedro Pierluisi as governor.
For the island to become a state, Congress would need to have majority support in both chambers, basically the same as with any federal legislation, and again, if both houses of Congress had a Democratic majority, it would be easier to get statehood.
Dr. Cifaldi says: “There is recent growing support for granting Washington D.C. statehood. And Puerto Rico statehood is gaining traction as well, especially among native Puerto Ricans in a local 2020 electoral referendum. Once a US territory has achieved statehood, it is inconceivable that its status could be reversed.”
Abolishing the Electoral College
Many Democrats have supported abolishing the Electoral College especially since the 2000 Presidential Election with the Florida Recount debacle, and more recently in the aftermath of the 2016 Presidential Election. According to a recent Gallup poll, a majority of Americans support amending the US Constitution so the Presidential candidate who wins the popular vote wins the Presidential Election.
The current Electoral College system allows a candidate to win the Presidency while losing the popular vote, an outcome seen as counter to the one person, one vote principle of democracy. This happened in the elections of 1824, 1876, 1888, 2000, and 2016.
The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact is an agreement among a group of U.S. states and the District of Columbia to award all their electoral votes to whichever presidential candidate wins the overall popular vote in the 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Dr. Cifaldi points out that “As of today, the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact has been adopted by 15 states and Washington DC. However, it will most likely require an amendment to the US Constitution in order to abolish the Electoral College. And a constitutional amendment to repeal a previous amendment has not been passed by Congress since 1933.”
These 15 states have 196 electoral votes, which is 36 percent of the Electoral College and 73 percent of the 270 votes needed to give the compact legal force.
“If the Democrats win control of the US Senate, the legislative repercussions could very well last for decades to come, and there is nothing the Republicans can do to change it,” Dr. Cifaldi says.