Brooklyn’s own Chuck Schumer will remain Senate majority leader after Democrats were projected to retain control of the upper chamber of Congress Saturday evening.
Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto’s victory in Nevada gave Democrats the 50 seats they needed to keep the Senate — repelling Republican efforts to retake the chamber and making it harder for them to thwart President Joe Biden’s agenda.
Vice President Kamala Harris breaks the 50-50 Senate tie, allowing Democrats to maintain control of the Senate regardless of the outcome of the Georgia runoff between Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker. But a Warnock victory would give Democrats a 51-seat majority — a one-seat pickup in what was initially projected to be a tough midterm election cycle.
For Schumer, the Democrats’ victory in the Senate represents the American voters’ rejection of the MAGA movement.
“We got a lot done and we’ll do a lot more for the American people,” Schumer said Saturday night. “The American people rejected — soundly rejected — the anti-democratic, authoritarian, nasty and divisive direction the MAGA Republicans wanted to take our country.”
Democratic control of the Senate ensures a smoother process for Biden’s Cabinet appointments and judicial picks, including those for potential Supreme Court openings. The party will also keep control over committees and have the power to conduct investigations or oversight of the Biden administration, and will be able to reject legislation sent over by the House if the GOP wins that chamber.
But the fate of the House of Representatives still remains far from decided nearly a week after Election Day. Republicans are still expected to win a majority in the House, though it may be a very slim one; nearly two dozen House races nationwide remain undecided.
If Democrats manage to pull off a win in the House, it would mean full control of Congress for Democrats — and another chance to advance Biden priorities, which he has said include codifying abortion rights. The party still lacks the 60 votes in the Senate needed to move many kinds of major legislative changes.
Heading into the midterm election, Republicans focused relentlessly on the economy, a top concern for many voters amid stubborn inflation and high gas and food prices. The GOP also hit Democrats on crime, a message that sometimes overstated the threat but nonetheless tapped into anxiety, particularly among the suburban voters who turned away from the party in 2018 and 2020. And they highlighted illegal border crossings, accusing Biden and other Democrats of failing to protect the country.
But Democrats were buoyed by voters angry about the Supreme Court’s June decision overturning the constitutional right to an abortion. They also portrayed Republicans as too extreme and a threat to democracy, following the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and Trump’s false claims — repeated by many GOP candidates — that the 2020 election was stolen from him.
Schumer said Democratic candidates’ promises to defend abortion rights resonated with voters. He said the election results made him feel good about the country and its commitment to democracy.
“We knew that the negativity, the nastiness, the condoning of Donald Trump’s big lie — and saying that the elections were rigged when there’s no proof of that at all — would hurt Republicans, not help them,” Schumer said. “But too many of them, and their candidates, fell into those traps.”
Referring to Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan, Schumer said voters had rejected “extremist MAGA Republicans.”
In Phnom Penh, Cambodia, for the summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Biden said of the election results: “I feel good. I’m looking forward to the next couple of years.”
He said winning a 51st seat from the Georgia runoff would be important and allow Democrats to boost their standing on Senate committees.
“It’s just simply better,” Biden said. “The bigger the number, the better.”
Biden, who called to congratulate Cortez Masto, said he was still hopeful that Democrats could hold the House.
“It’s a stretch,” he acknowledged. “Everything has to fall our way.”