Tuesday, January 5, under an unusual set of circumstances, there are two runoff elections in the state of Georgia for U.S. Senate. If the Republicans win even one of those races, the Republicans will have the majority in the Senate. If the Democrats win both of them, then there will be 50 Republicans and 50 Democrats (or Independents who caucus with the Democrats) in the Senate, a perfect tie, in which case Vice-President Kamala Harris, as president of the Senate, will be the tie-breaker, giving the Democrats the majority by just one vote.
For both parties, the stakes are high. Both parties have been doing massive fundraising and pouring millions into the campaigns. The Democrats, of course, want a majority in the Senate to work with the Democratic majority in the House (razor-thin as it is) and with the Biden administration. The Republicans, meanwhile, are telling voters that a Republican majority in the Senate will be the only thing blocking the radical socialist agenda that they associate with the Democrats.
But Republicans in Georgia have been getting mixed signals from Trump. He’s telling them they should turn out and vote Republican, of course (and he’s holding a rally in Georgia Monday night), but he’s also saying that these runoff elections are illegal, invalid, and rigged. Democrats are delighted; they’d love to see the Republicans boycott the polls that day. That isn’t likely to happen, though, and while the races could go either way, I’m definitely not betting any money on the Democrats winning both of them.
If the Democrats do get a majority in the Senate, they will still have to abolish the filibuster if they want to get any major legislation passed without Republican cooperation. They may well be reluctant to do that, though without abolishing the filibuster it will take 60 votes to pass most bills in the Senate. And which party has the majority will make a big difference in whether Biden can appoint the people he wants as cabinet officers and federal judges. For a number of reasons, both parties consider the stakes to be very high.