SPONSORED:

50-50 Senate opens the door to solutions outlasting Trump's moment of violence

50-50 Senate opens the door to solutions outlasting Trump's moment of violence
© Greg Nash

The upset Senate victories of Georgia Democrats Raphael WarnockRaphael WarnockRepublicans plan voting overhauls after Biden's win Refreshing the tree of liberty Limbaugh falsely says Biden didn't win legitimately while reacting to inauguration MORE and Jon OssoffJon OssoffRepublicans plan voting overhauls after Biden's win Refreshing the tree of liberty Ossoff sworn in on Hebrew Bible from synagogue bombed by white supremacists in the 1950s MORE just upended Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSchumer: Impeachment trial will be quick, doesn't need a lot of witnesses McConnell: Power-sharing deal can proceed after Manchin, Sinema back filibuster Budowsky: A Biden-McConnell state of emergency summit 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.

ADVERTISEMENT

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 SandersTim Ryan says he's 'looking seriously' at running for Portman's Senate seat Bernie Sanders has been most-followed member of Congress on social media for six years This week: Senate stuck in limbo 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.

ADVERTISEMENT

Manchin was the only Democratic voting to confirm Supreme Court Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughUndoing Trump will take more than executive orders LIVE INAUGURATION COVERAGE: Biden signs executive orders; press secretary holds first briefing Harris to resign from Senate seat on Monday MORE.

Manchin was the only Democrat to cosponsor a Republican bill committing the nation to fossil fuel use (along with developing carbon-capture technology).

In 2012, the NRA gave Manchin an “A” rating — though he lost NRA support when he favored gun-buyers’ background checks and other minimal public protections.

With Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinMcConnell: Power-sharing deal can proceed after Manchin, Sinema back filibuster Budowsky: A Biden-McConnell state of emergency summit Manchin vows that he won't vote to kill filibuster 'under any condition' 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: Minimum wage increase should be separate from COVID-19 relief package The Hill's Morning Report - Biden: Focus on vaccine, virus, travel Moderates vow to 'be a force' under Biden MORE (R-Maine), Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyHouse formally sends impeachment to Senate, putting Trump on trial for Capitol riot Bernie Sanders has been most-followed member of Congress on social media for six years The Hill's Morning Report - Biden: Focus on vaccine, virus, travel MORE (R-Utah) and Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiModerates vow to 'be a force' under Biden Senators spar over validity of Trump impeachment trial Trump impeachment trial to begin week of Feb. 8 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.

Each is pro-choice.

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 WheelerBiden 'freeze' of Trump rules could halt environmental rollbacks 15 states sue EPA over decision not to tighten pollution standard for smog 13 states sue EPA over rule allowing some polluters to follow weaker emissions standards 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 TrumpSchumer: Impeachment trial will be quick, doesn't need a lot of witnesses Nurse to be tapped by Biden as acting surgeon general: report Schumer calls for Biden to declare climate emergency 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.