President Donald Trump hasn't yet conceded the 2020 U.S. presidential election, but the writing's on the wall -- Joe Biden is the President-elect and is set to be sworn in as President in Jan. 2021.
While the Democrats celebrate their victory, it was not an absolute one. For up for grabs were also seats in the House of Representatives and the Senate.
Election for Congressmen and Senators, not just President
The Democrats had a lead in the House, which initiates legislation, and were hoping to retake the Senate, which assesses it.
A number of sitting Republican Senators faced election contests, and if the Democrats did well enough, they would obtain a majority in the Senate too.
Going into election day, they had a 53-47 deficit to overcome.
The plan was either to flip enough seats to get at least a 51-49 majority, which would enable a President Biden to pass legislation more easily. Otherwise, a 50-50 tie would also serve, as under Senate rules a Vice-President Kamala Harris would be able to cast tie-breaking votes.
But it didn't quite pan out that way.
Senate likely to remain majority Republican
The Democrats did have a couple of successes, with John Hickenlooper prevailing in Colorado and the astronaut Mark Kelly winning in Arizona.
But Democrat Doug Jones of Alabama lost his contest, while Republican heavyweights like Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Susan Collins of Maine, all managed to hang on to their seats.
Due to mail-in ballots still being counted, there are 48 seats in Republican hands, with four races still to be called:
- North Carolina.
- Both seats in Georgia.
But if the Republicans do secure a majority, then despite Biden's triumph, the real winner may just be McConnell.
Power to pass or block legislation
As the Senate Majority Leader, McConnell wields tremendous power when it comes to passing or blocking legislation.
McConnell reportedly relished his role as the "Grim Reaper" of legislation, refusing to allow a vote on various bills brought to the Senate by the House if he doesn't like them. Under the Trump Administration, McConnell proceeded to confirm judges whom the Republican party hopes will make rulings along conservative lines.
Salon reported that McConnell personally did not like Trump, although they were able to work together to further a conservative agenda.
McConnell may decide to work with Biden to pass urgent legislation such as Covid-19 economic relief or other measures to fight to pandemic. But even if he does, he will be able to demand concessions from the Executive Branch, one way or another.
Other ambitious legislative aims for the Democrats, such as statehood for Washington DC and Puerto Rico, a Green New Deal, hiking the minimum wage or adding more justices to the Supreme Court may have to be shelved as long as McConnell remains where he is.
Biden may decide to use executive orders to circumvent McConnell, much like Trump did, although they have limited effectiveness as compared to a bill initiated in the House, approved by the Senate and signed into law by the President.
McConnell controls what can get done
McConnell's influence is felt in other ways as well.
He was also instrumental in blocking Obama's nominee to the Supreme Court, Merrick Garland, about a year before the U.S. presidential election of 2016. The seat was left open until Trump won, and then filled by his own selection, Neil Gorsuch.
McConnell also moved quickly to seat conservative judges Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Barrett on the Supreme Court after the resignation of Anthony Kennedy and the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, confirming a conservative majority.
His influence was even felt during the Democrat nomination campaign and debates, with Biden specifically citing his bipartisan work with McConnell during the Obama years to pass a stimulus bill, with the implication that other candidates may not be able to work as effectively with the Kentucky Senator.
If the dust settles and what's left behind is a Biden presidency but McConnell retaining his position as Majority Leader, the 78-year-old may not feel too distraught about the outcome of the 2020 elections.
The relationship between McConnell and Biden goes way back
But despite their ideological differences, there is a possibility that McConnell and Biden may be able to work together, to their mutual benefit.
With both having served in the Senate for decades, the two know each other well. And what's more, they seem to get along on a personal basis.
McConnell attended the funeral of Biden's son Beau in 2015, and at the end of Obama's tenure, McConnell paid tribute to the outgoing Vice-President.
"Champ, his father used to say, the measure of a man is not how often he is knocked down but how quickly he gets up. That's Joe Biden right there - unbowed, unbroken and unable to stop talking."
This personal relationship may be the only hope that Democrats have of getting any legislation enacted under a Biden Administration.
Not over yet, Georgia on my mind
But whether or not the Republicans secure a majority in the Senate largely depends on what happens in Georgia.
The Peach State, which looks set to be confirmed for Biden in the presidential race, also held not one but two elections for U.S. Senators.
The Republicans David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler took on the Democrat candidates, Jon Ossof and Raphael Warnock.
Georgia has a unique rule when it comes to its Senate races -- a candidate must obtain at least 50 per cent of the votes, as a race can have multiple candidates, not just two.
If no single candidate gets a minimum of 50 per cent, then another election will be held, with just two candidates this time. This ensures that the winner will obtain at least 50 per cent of the votes, and is known as a run-off election.
And it appears that this time in Georgia, there will be not one but two run-off elections, as nobody got 50 per cent of the vote.
The Georgia run-offs represent the last hope that Democrats have for the Senate. For if both their candidates win, then the Senate will be perfectly balanced at 50-50 (assuming Alaska and North Carolina both go Republican).
And as mentioned, a 50-50 tie can be broken by the Vice-President.
The U.S. just had a bruising presidential election. But the battle for the Senate is far from over.
Top image from Mitch McConnell's Facebook page.