With the closely watched and razor tight presidential race still up in the air as vote-counting continues despite the efforts of President Donald Trump, the Democratic Party's hopes of wresting control of the U.S. Senate from the GOP had dwindled dramatically by Wednesday morning, potentially imperiling the hopes of ambitious progressive legislation should Joe Biden ultimately win the White House.
While Republicans have yet to officially cement their hold on the Senate—an institution the GOP has successfully used to ram through right-wing judicial nominees and kill stacks of legislation approved by House Democrats—results emerging from key states indicate that Democratic challengers are set to fall short of toppling enough vulnerable Republicans, including Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), to win the chamber.
"What's left of our democracy is hanging on by a thread and is giving way to self-entrenching GOP minority rule up and down the ballot."
—Stephen Wolf, Daily Kos Election
Another vulnerable Republican, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, currently has a slim lead over Democratic challenger Sara Gideon but less than 50% of the vote, leaving open the possibility that the state's ranked-choice voting system could kick in and threaten Collins' advantage. In North Carolina, Republican Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) is also clinging to a narrow lead over Democratic opponent Cal Cunningham.
As the Washington Post summarized early Wednesday, "Republicans defeated well-funded Democratic challengers in South Carolina, Iowa, and Montana while seizing a lead in the key battleground of North Carolina. Democrats defeated Republican Sens. Cory Gardner in Colorado and Martha McSally in Arizona, although the GOP picked up a seat of its own in Alabama and appeared to diminish the prospects of a Democratic majority as results continued to roll in." Democrats need a net gain of four seats to win the Senate outright, and three if Biden wins the presidency—a scenario that would make Vice President Kamala Harris the tie-breaker.
The consequences of a Biden presidency with an intransigent Republican-controlled Senate headed by newly reelected Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)—the self-proclaimed legislative "grim reaper"—could be immense, given the desperate need to pass legislation confronting the ongoing coronavirus and economic collapse as well as sweeping measures to combat the climate emergency. Biden's proposed $2.2 trillion green energy plan, for instance, would be doomed to fail in a GOP Senate.
I don’t think people have absorbed just how disastrous a Biden White House and Republican Senate could be.
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— Ryan Grim (@ryangrim) November 4, 2020
A Republican-controlled Senate could also wreak havoc on a Biden White House's ability to fill key cabinet positions and confirm judicial nominees to federal courts that Trump and McConnell have relentlessly stuffed with right-wing judges.
If Democrats can’t win the Senate under a historically unpopular and incompetent Republican President, the need for Democrats to embrace structural reform to allow majorities to govern and the inability to enact it could just dangerously bash against one another ad infinitum.
— Waleed Shahid (@_waleedshahid) November 4, 2020
Stephen Wolf of Daily Kos Elections warned early Wednesday that while "Biden may still win the Electoral College," Democrats "are on track to not take the Senate despite getting more votes nationally just like the last several cycles."
"GOP minority rule is our reality," said Wolf. "Joe Biden could be elected president, but without the Senate, there's a massive risk that he becomes a failed president unable to appoint any judges or enact any progressive policies... What's left of our democracy is hanging on by a thread and is giving way to self-entrenching GOP minority rule up and down the ballot."