Democratic Senators-elect Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff won Georgia’s runoff races, changing control of the Senate from Republican to Democrat. With Democrats in control of both the executive and legislative branch, as Senate Minority leader Chuck Schumer once said, “nothing is off the table.”
Progressives have already cheered Warnock’s and Ossoff’s wins. Democratic Washington Rep. Pramila Jayapal said “VICTORY in Georgia must lead to transformative change across America!”
VICTORY in Georgia must lead to transformative change across America!
Recurring survival checks, union jobs that pay a living wage, guaranteed health care, racial justice, voting rights, immigration reform, climate action, repro justice, education, and MUCH more.
It can’t wait!
— Rep. Pramila Jayapal (@RepJayapal) January 6, 2021
Jayapal said health care, “recurring survival checks,” immigration reform, climate action and other changes are now on the table. Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez also chimed in, saying it’s time to push for progressive policies.
It’s a new day!
Who’s ready to PUSH? ????????♀️????????????????♂️
Ready to PUSH for retroactive COVID relief? ????
And to PUSH for student loan cancellation?????
For climate justice? ????
Voting rights? ????
Ending the death penalty?????????⚖️
What policies do you most want to PUSH for? ⤵️
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) January 6, 2021
While not all of those policies are likely to materialize, Democrats have been pushing for a slew of reforms which could soon become reality.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell warned in September that should Democrats take the Senate, they’d try to admit Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico as a state, according to Newsweek.
“You know where the other guys want to take us: D.C. statehood, Puerto Rican statehood, packing the courts, raising our taxes, over-regulating the economy,” McConnell said.
Schumer told MSNBC in September that if Puerto Rico wants it, then Democrats would be more than happy to make Puerto Rico and D.C. states, according to the New York Post. “Believe me, on D.C. and Puerto Rico – particularly if Puerto Rico votes for it, D.C. already has voted for it and wants it – [we] would love to make them states,” he said.
In June the Democrat-controlled house passed a bill that didn’t eliminate D.C. but rather made the area smaller to include federal government businesses. The remainder of the area would become the 51st state, according to The Hill.
The process for creating a new state is vaguely outlined in Article IV, Section 3 of the Constitution, which stipulates that a territory must consent first and foremost. If a territory favors statehood, then a petition is sent to Congress, according to ABC 10.
A simple majority in the Senate can result in a new state – something all the more possible with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris as the tie breaker.
Another push coming from some Democrats is ending the filibuster, which has been used historically to protect minority political interests. Schumer signaled a willingness to end the practice, which imposes a 60-vote requirement to end debate about a bill in the Senate.
As Republicans moved to confirm Justice Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, Schumer said that all bets were off should they be successful.
“Let me be clear: if Leader McConnell and Senate Republicans move forward with this, then nothing is off the table for next year,” Schumer said, according to Politico. Schumer also told MSNBC that he doesn’t plan on wasting his time if he becomes majority leader.
“As for the filibuster, I’m not busting my chops to become majority leader to do very little or [get] nothing done,” Schumer said, according to Fox News. “We are going to get a whole lot done. And as I’ve said, everything, everything is on the table.”
Democratic Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey echoed the sentiment, tweeting that should Democrats win control of the Senate and White House they “must abolish the filibuster and expand the Supreme Court.”
Mitch McConnell set the precedent. No Supreme Court vacancies filled in an election year. If he violates it, when Democrats control the Senate in the next Congress, we must abolish the filibuster and expand the Supreme Court.
— Ed Markey (@EdMarkey) September 19, 2020
Packing the court has also been an area of recent contention. Since 1889, there have been nine justices on the Supreme Court. While there’s no rule that says the court can’t be expanded, recent precedent holds that a nine-justice court is standard. President-elect Joe Biden has been reluctant to answer whether he would support packing the court, which is popular among some Democrats who see the practice as a way to push more progressive policies.
Other Democrats, however, have called for the practice. California Rep. Jerry Nadler said that, should Republicans push Barrett through, the court should be expanded.
If Sen. McConnell and @SenateGOP were to force through a nominee during the lame duck session—before a new Senate and President can take office—then the incoming Senate should immediately move to expand the Supreme Court. 1/2 https://t.co/BDYQ0KVmJe
— Rep. Nadler (@RepJerryNadler) September 19, 2020
In order to pack the court, Democrats would need to control both chambers of Congress and introduce legislation that would increase the number of justices on the bench. While Democrats do control Congress, Independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders opposes the practice, according to Forbes. Colorado Sen. Michael Bennett also opposed packing the court during the 2020 primaries.
Republican Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan introduced legislation in September that would limit the court to nine justices, noting packing the court would “undermine our democratic institutions.”
— Rep. Jim Jordan (@Jim_Jordan) September 22, 2020
Another proposal from Democrats is abolishing the Electoral College.
Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley suggested in August that the U.S. should move toward abolishing the electoral college, calling the system “racist.”
The electoral college has deeply racist roots. As we address systemic racism in America, the electoral college has to go. I’ve introduced a constitutional amendment to do just that.https://t.co/sQIsx76xx3
— Senator Jeff Merkley (@SenJeffMerkley) August 7, 2020
Democratic Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren also pushed for the Electoral College to be abolished.
“Presidential candidates should have to ask every American in every part of the country for their vote … It’s time to abolish the Electoral College and to have a national popular vote,” she said.
Democratic Sens. Brian Schatz, Dick Durbin, Dianne Feinstein and Kirstin Gillibrand introduced an amendment to abolish the College.
The College is designed to avoid a scenario where a president wins simply due to regional density. Trent England wrote in USA Today that “the Electoral College makes it impossible for one population-dense region of the country to control the presidency.”
“Instead of winning over small-town Americans, she amassed a popular vote lead based on California and a few big cities…The Electoral College requires more than just the most raw votes to win-it requires geographical balance. This helps to protect rural and small-town Americans.”