US President Joe Biden's Democrats defended their majority in the Senate in congressional elections, thereby scoring an important political victory. They managed to hold a hard-fought Senate seat in the state of Nevada, as the AP news agency and the major US television stations reported on Saturday evening (local time) based on vote counts. This gives the Democrats the necessary number of senators to control the Chamber of Congress. It is still unclear who will have the say in the House of Representatives in the future.
Before the election, a wave of success was predicted for the Republicans and a debacle for the Democrats. But neither happened. Overall, the Democrats performed significantly better than expected.
The congressional elections had already taken place last Tuesday. The vote midway through Biden's four-year term saw all 435 House seats and about a third of the Senate seats up for grabs. In addition, the important governorships were filled in numerous states.
Extremely close race in Nevada
The counting of the votes in Nevada had dragged on for a long time due to an extremely close race between the two opponents and electoral peculiarities in the state. After days of nail-biting, Democratic Senator Catherine Cortez Masto prevailed over Republican challenger Adam Laxalt.
That brings the Democrats to 50 out of 100 seats in the chamber - and they already have the majority, although a race for a Senate seat in Georgia is still open. The background is that the Democratic US Vice President Kamala Harris, who is also President of the Senate, is allowed to vote in a stalemate. That means even if Republicans win in Georgia, the Senate balance of power would be 50-50, as it has been for the past two years - and Harris keeps the Democrats a slim majority.
Biden expressed his satisfaction with the result. "I'm incredibly pleased with the outcome," said Biden on Sunday morning (local time) in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh, where he attended the Asean summit. His national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, said the outcome of the election also drew a lot of interest from leaders at the summit and strengthened Biden's position on the world political stage.
Schumer: Clear decision against Trump
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in New York that voters had clearly decided against the "anti-democratic, authoritarian, malicious and divisive direction" in which sections of the Republican Party under former President Donald Trump wanted to take the country.
Many Republicans expressed frustration with the outcome of the Senate election and called for a general change of course in their party. Some openly blamed Trump for backing some radical candidates who failed. Outgoing Republican Maryland Governor Larry Hogan told CNN on Sunday, "Trump cost us the last three elections and I don't want that to happen a fourth time."
In Georgia on December 6 there will be a runoff for the last open Senate seat: between Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock and his Republican challenger Herschel Walker. Because neither of the two got more than 50 percent of the votes in the first attempt. Should the Democrats also win in Georgia, they would have 51 Senate seats and would no longer have to rely on Harris to tip the scales in a stalemate.
This scenario would be a little more comfortable for Biden than before. Because the first half of his term in office has shown how difficult it is to govern with a wafer-thin majority in the Senate. Two party colleagues in particular made life difficult for him there: Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema blocked various Biden projects.
Important personal details at the federal level - such as ambassadors, cabinet members or federal judges - must also be confirmed by the Senate. The chamber is therefore of particular political importance.
Biden is now certain of the opportunity to push through further nominations. How much else the president can achieve politically in the second half of his term in office now depends primarily on whether his Democrats lose their majority in the House of Representatives - which is currently considered more likely - or whether they can possibly also retain the majority in the chamber .
Threatened with impeachment
Should the Republicans have the say in the House of Representatives in the future, they can block legislative projects. The Republicans have also threatened various investigations against Democrats or even impeachment proceedings against members of the Biden cabinet.
Results are still being tallied in the House of Representatives. 218 seats are needed there for a majority. On Sunday, the Republicans initially had 211 seats and the Democrats 204. The race in the chamber is also much closer than predicted before the election.