A view from the lower west terrace door as preparations are made prior to a dress rehearsal for the 59th inaugural ceremony for President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris on Monday, January 18, 2021 at the U.S. Capitol in Washington. (Win McNamee/Pool via AP)
UPDATED 9:41 AM PT – Monday, January 18, 2021
The GOP is looking to what they can do on Capitol Hill to block Joe Biden’s radical agenda as the Senate is left with a 50-50 split and a Democrat vice president is set to be the tie-breaking vote.
With Biden’s inauguration just a couple days away and Democrat Senators-elect Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff preparing to be sworn in, the upper chamber will have the most even split possible in the 117th Congress.
Such a divide is extremely rare in American history as the last time there was a 50-50 split in the Senate was in 2001 when Republican Vice President Dick Cheney held the tie-breaking vote. Although a Democrat will be breaking the tie this time around, this equation could still likely make it difficult for either party to advance their agendas.
In fact, to pass any major legislation a “super majority” of 60 senators is typically needed. However, a “simple majority” could be sufficient for passing budget and tax-related bills, which means Biden could still have the ability to raise taxes and expand highly controversial Obamacare.
However, a “simple majority” could still be difficult to achieve with middle of the road Democrats such as Joe Manchin, who’s already voiced opposition to far-reaching institutional reforms. Several Democrats have still voiced enthusiasm about advancing these radical policies despite the lack in bipartisan support.
Light shines on an American flag as seen from the Capitol Rotunda in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Republican power in the chamber will largely hinge on the ability to filibuster, which wold call for unlimited debate on legislation requiring a “super majority.” With this weapon ready in the GOP’s back pocket, Democrats would need to win over a minimum of 10 Republicans to advance any major legislation.
As it stands, however, only three Republican senators are considered to be possible swing votes: Mitt Romney, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski. Therefore, Republicans have little reason for concern in terms of whether Biden’s radical policies such as raising the federal minimum wage and expanding gun regulations will make any headway on Capitol Hill.