Big win for Joe Biden as Democrats land outright majority in the US Senate

US

Democrat Raphael Warnock has been re-elected to the US Senate in a crucial win for President Joe Biden, NBC News has projected.

His expected victory gives Democrats an outright majority in the Senate after two years under a 50-50 divide, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting tie-breaking votes.

Mr Warnock defeated Republican rival Herschel Walker during the Georgia race – a former NFL star.

A run-off election was triggered because neither candidate had won an outright majority during the midterm elections last month.

Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock speaks during an election night watch party, Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022, in Atlanta. Sen. Warnock has defeated Republican challenger Herschel Walker in a runoff election in Georgia. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
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Reverend Raphael Warnock celebrates with supporters

In his victory speech, Mr Warnock told supporters: “After a hard-fought campaign – or should I say campaigns – it is my honour to utter the four most powerful words ever spoken in a democracy: The people have spoken.”

Mr Biden called him to offer his congratulations.

He tweeted: “Tonight Georgia voters stood up for our democracy, rejected Ultra MAGAism, and most importantly: sent a good man back to the Senate. Here’s to six more years.”

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Mr Walker, an American football legend in the 1980s, was unable to overcome a bevy of damaging allegations, including claims he paid for two former girlfriends’ abortions.

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Herschel Walker, who is facing Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock in a run-off election, speaks during a campaign stop in Ellijay, Georgia, U.S. December 5, 2022. REUTERS/Alyssa Pointer
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Former NFL star Herschel Walker

A multimillionaire businessman, he inflated his philanthropic activities and business achievements, including claiming his company employed hundreds of people and grossed tens of millions of dollars in sales annually, even though records indicate he had eight employees and averaged about $1.5m (£1.2m) a year.

He has suggested he has worked as a law enforcement officer and was a college (university) graduate, though he has done neither.

His Senate run was endorsed by former president Donald Trump.

Yet another signal America is moving away from Donald Trump as a political force

Having followed Herschel Walker on the campaign trail in Georgia, it is difficult to believe this race ever went to a runoff.

The former NFL star has consistently struggled to convey a coherent message, with badly delivered speeches in contrast with his opponent, Reverend Raphael Warnock, a preacher by trade who commands an audience.

Walker was handpicked as a nominee by the former president, Donald Trump, but his reputation was smashed to smithereens during the course of the campaign.

He ran on an anti-abortion pledge, yet two women emerged to allege he paid for them to have an abortion after they became pregnant by him (claims he denies). He also condemned absentee fathers, particularly in black households, but later acknowledged he has a son he never sees.

But his defeat is not only important for Democrats because of the rejection of his personal integrity – or lack thereof – and the “Make America Great Again” values he espoused.

It also means that – for the first time in Joe Biden’s presidency – his party has an outright majority in the senate.

The new 51-49 split means Democrats can speed up judicial nominees and control committees in the Senate. But it also avoids a situation where one senator – in the past two years it has been Joe Manchin or Kyrsten Sinema – can wield their swing vote as a weapon.

Perhaps most significantly, though, it is yet another signal that America is moving away from Mr Trump as a political force.

Athena Soules walks with a sign in the hall during an election night watch party for Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock, Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022, in Atlanta. Georgia voters are deciding the final Senate contest in the country, choosing between Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican candidate Herschel Walker. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

On the campaign, Mr Warnock, the state’s first black senator, promoted his Senate accomplishments, touting a provision he sponsored to cap insulin costs for low income patients, and deals on infrastructure and maternal healthcare.

Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer said Mr Warnock’s victory was one “against MAGA Republican extremist policies”.

The closing weeks of the election period grew increasingly bitter. Mr Walker labelled Mr Warnock – senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia’s capital – as a “hypocrite” and servile to President Joe Biden.

Although a Democrat, Mr Warnock had been attempting to distance himself from Mr Biden, whose approval ratings have lagged as inflation in the US remains high.

Supporters react during an election night watch party for Republican challenger Herschel Walker, Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022, in Atlanta. Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock has defeated Republican challenger Herschel Walker in a runoff election in Georgia.(AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
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Supporter of Walker’s at the Republican watch party. Pic: Associated Press

The Democrats’ new outright majority in the Senate does not mean an end to divided government, as the Republicans narrowly flipped House control in recent midterms, but it does mean they will now hold control of powerful committees.

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