The upset Senate victories of Georgia Democrats Raphael WarnockRaphael WarnockThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - House Democrats plagued by Biden agenda troubles Herschel Walker will speak at Trump rally in Georgia Democrats push to shield election workers from violent threats MORE and Jon OssoffJon OssoffProgressive poll finds support for solar energy tax credit legislation Stacey Abrams backs Senate Democrats' voting rights compromise Herschel Walker's entrance shakes up Georgia Senate race MORE just upended Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellHouse passes standalone bill to provide B for Israel's Iron Dome Pelosi vows to avert government shutdown McConnell calls Trump a 'fading brand' in Woodward-Costa book MORE’s plan to handcuff the Biden-Harris administration. American progress looks revived with checks-and-balances in place. The Trump-incited violence in the Capitol will be short-lived, and the Republic will emerge stronger.
Let’s pause to appreciate the historic and courageous journey black voters in Georgia and elsewhere have taken to this triumphant moment where their votes turned the tide. The spirits of black souls whose lives were lost to Jim Crow white supremacist mobs rest easier today.
With Warnock’s and Ossoff’s wins, the prospects for COVID stimulus and $2,000 relief checks rise exponentially, as will Biden’s ability to address the pandemic, full economic recovery, health care, environmental issues, and restoration of the rule of law.
In addition, questions about McConnell’s blocking Biden Supreme Court nominees fade.
Republicans ran a fear campaign in Georgia that without a Republican Senate, socialism was around the corner.
Put aside the fact that Biden, on his way to the Democratic presidential nomination, defeated a socialist, Bernie SandersBernie SandersOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by the League of Conservation Voters — EPA finalizing rule cutting HFCs Manchin fires warning shot on plan to expand Medicare Democrats steamroll toward showdown on House floor MORE, by opposing Medicare-for-All and others of Sanders most progressive policies.
A 50-50 Senate is not about to abandon its role in checking out-of-mainstream proposals. Too many moderates inhabit the Democratic Caucus: Think Jon Tester (Mont.), Michael Bennet (Colo.) and Joe Manchin (W.Va).
Indeed, Manchin may have just had a power-lift as the Senate’s most conservative Democrat. He can join Republicans to form a 51-49 majority on measures too liberal for his constituents’ taste. He’s already said that he won’t support ending the filibuster.
In Manchin’s West Virginia, Trump beat Biden by nearly 40 points. No surprise that Manchin voted more for Trump than against him.
Manchin was the only Democratic voting to confirm Supreme Court Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughGraham tries to help Trump and McConnell bury the hatchet Republicans keep distance from 'Justice for J6' rally Senators denounce protest staged outside home of Justice Kavanaugh MORE.
Manchin was the only Democrat to cosponsor a Republican bill committing the nation to fossil fuel use (along with developing carbon-capture technology).
With Joe ManchinJoe ManchinManchin fires warning shot on plan to expand Medicare Panic begins to creep into Democratic talks on Biden agenda Enhanced infrastructure plan is the best way to go MORE in the Senate mix, the country is unlikely to overdrift left.
But there’s another side to the story, opening a path forward: moderate Republicans.
Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsCollins to endorse LePage in Maine governor comeback bid McConnell privately urged GOP senators to oppose debt ceiling hike GOP senator will 'probably' vote for debt limit increase MORE (R-Maine), Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyGraham tries to help Trump and McConnell bury the hatchet GOP senator will 'probably' vote for debt limit increase Five questions and answers about the debt ceiling fight MORE (R-Utah) and Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiGOP warns McConnell won't blink on debt cliff Graham tries to help Trump and McConnell bury the hatchet Trump, allies launch onslaught as midterms kick into gear MORE (R-Alaska), individually or together, will surely join Democrats on multiple fronts such as reasonable stimulus measures. Back in 2009, Collins crossed party lines to support Obama’s economic recovery package.
More generally, Collins and Murkowski sided with Obama more than 70 percent of the time. That bodes well for Biden.
In 2017, both Collins and Murkowski voted against repeal of Obamacare. Romney wasn’t yet in the Senate, but Obamacare was built from Romney’s model as Massachusetts’ governor. One or more of the three Republicans might well support Biden’s proposal to create a “public option.”
All three Senators voted to end Trump’s declaration of emergency to build his wall. Collins supported a 2013 immigration reform and border security bill with a pathway to citizenship. She is the most likely ally on moderate legislation in this area of need.
On environmental issues, Romney and Collins may also align with Democrats. He has been an advocate of addressing climate change.
Collins voted with Democrats against the 2017 Congressional Review Act, which repealed Obama-era stream protections from coal industry waste. She opposed confirmation of Interior Secretary Andrew WheelerAndrew WheelerOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Emissions heading toward pre-pandemic levels Former EPA chief to chair pro-Trump think tank's environmental center Lobbying world MORE, previously a coal industry lobbyist.
With Collins and Romney, the possibility of a Senate majority for Biden-proposed legislation dealing with the climate crisis exists regardless of Manchin’s position.
Last, all three moderate Republicans are possible Democratic allies in democracy-reform. Romney has most vocally opposed Executive Branch corruption; witness his lone Republican vote to convict President TrumpDonald TrumpTexas announces election audit in four counties after Trump demand Schumer sets Monday showdown on debt ceiling-government funding bill Pennsylvania AG sues to block GOP subpoenas in election probe MORE following his impeachment.
The three Senators each recognized Biden’s victory in November and condemned the Cruz-Hawley cohort’s Jan. 6 objections to certification of Biden’s election. Romney, Collins and Murkowski are likely supporters of Democratic legislation to address the last four years’ corruption.
Thus, Georgia’s surprising turn of events offers more than mere relief from McConnell gridlock. The runoff offers hope that measured progress on major legislation is on the horizon.
Dennis Aftergut is a former federal prosecutor and Supreme Court advocate, currently a Lawyers Defending American Democracy steering committee member.