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The difference a 51-49 Senate majority makes to Democrats

Georgia runoff win extends Democrats' Senate majority
Raphael Warnock's win in Georgia runoff extends Democrats' Senate majority 01:55

Democrats were going to control the Senate in January regardless of the outcome of Tuesday night's runoff election between Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican candidate Herschel Walker, since a Democrat occupies the White House. 

CBS News projects Warnock will keep his seat in the Senate, meaning Democrats will have a 51-49 majority — one more seat than they currently have. That one seat will make some difference to the party, even though they're far short of the 60 votes necessary to pass most legislation since 60 votes are required to end debate on measures being considered. 

"After one year, 10 months and 17 days of the longest 50-50 Senate in history, 51 — a slim majority. That is great. And we are so happy about it," a gleeful Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Wednesday morning. 

In January, in the 118th Congress, the composition of Senate committees will be determined by an organizing resolution, which the Senate needs to pass with each new Congress. Committees will have more Democrats than Republicans, likely just by one member because of the narrow split. 

With more Democrats than Republicans on committees, it'll be easier for Democrats to move the president's nominees, including judicial nominations, out of committee and to the Senate floor. And that one-vote advantage will help them win approval more quickly. 

With a majority on committees, Democrats will also be able to issue subpoenas without Republican approval. In most committees, subpoenas can be issued by a majority vote in the committee or subcommittee. Subpoenas are governed by committee rules, which still need to be approved. But the rules related to subpoenas are relatively standard.

A 51-49 Senate also means Vice President Kamala Harris, a former senator herself and the president of the Senate, will have less influence on the floor. Harris has taken pride in breaking more ties than nearly every other vice president. She broke ties on key votes including climate and health care legislation and the American Rescue Plan, which provided financial help to individuals and companies during the pandemic. 

— John Nolen contributed to this report.

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