Democrats successfully defended their tight hold on the U.S. Senate in the 2022 midterm elections, giving President Joe Biden a little breathing room next year, even if Republicans eventually win a majority in the House.
sen. Catherine Cortez Masto’s (D-Nev.) victory over Republican Adam Laxalt in Nevada earned the Democrats 50th vote after days of uncertainty over thousands of mail-in ballots. The Georgia Senate race, whose impact may be felt more strongly in 2024, will be decided by a runoff on Dec. 6.
Republicans hoped voters’ dissatisfaction with Democratic policies and high inflation would usher in a “red wave” and lead them to victory in both chambers of Congress. While making gains in some states, such as Florida and New York, Republican candidates, many of them extremists backed by former President Donald Trump, underperformed elsewhere in the country.
Preliminary exit polls showed that less than a third of voters saw inflation as the defining issue of the election, with the survival of democracy and abortion rights just as heavy in their minds. Attacking Democrats for crime also didn’t seem to be the winning strategy the Republicans had envisioned.
Democrats made an important point in the closing days of the race for the future of democracy. They argued that this year’s dozens of GOP election deniers posed a critical threat that should be dismissed before the next presidential election, especially with the twice-indicted former President Donald Trump teasing another run for the White House.
While many election deniers lost their races on Tuesday, more than 160 who have denied or questioned Biden’s 2020 presidential victory will be in Congress by 2023.
With a majority in the Senate, Democrats can achieve several things.
First, they will be able to fill vacancies in Biden’s cabinet more easily and have two years left to reshape the federal courts. Biden’s team has been remarkably stable, especially when compared to Trump’s. But several heads of department are expected to leave in the coming months, and he now has a greater chance of confirming their replacement.
In the first half of his tenure, Biden also confirmed a record number of judges, a group more diverse than that of any previous president. A GOP-controlled senate would have ended that streak and likely would have eliminated any possibility of a Supreme Court appointment should a vacancy arise.
Second, Democrats will have a stronger hand in upcoming negotiations with a GOP-controlled House on mandatory fiscal measures like government spending and the debt cap.
Republicans have already indicated that they will refuse to support a debt ceiling hike without major policy concessions from Democrats, such as cuts to Social Security and Medicare. The struggle against the debt ceiling in 2011 resulted in the first-ever downgrade in the US credit rating. A default on the debt would be disastrous.
A growing number of legislators I want Democrats to raise the debt ceiling in this year’s slack session of Congress, removing the threat of economic Armageddon for the rest of Biden’s term. For that, however, they need the support of all 50 members of the current Senate Democratic caucus.
The next debt ceiling deadline will come sometime next year, although the exact date is uncertain as tax revenues inward can be unpredictable from month to month.
Finally, Democrats now face a slightly easier path into 2024, when they will face a particularly brutal map. dDemocrats will have to defend seven seats in states former President Donald Trump won at least once, with only two picks. Republicans hope to widen margins in that election, with even some early rumors of reaching a filibuster-proof majority.
If Democrats can defend the seat of Senator Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) in Georgia’s upcoming runoff election, they’ll be better positioned for the next election.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.