Democrats took control of the Senate on Wednesday as Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff were sworn in as Georgia’s two representatives to the upper chamber.
The swearing-in, which took place hours after President Joe Biden’s inauguration, comes after the pair narrowly defeated two incumbent Republican senators, Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, in runoff elections on January 5.
Vice President Kamala Harris presided over the swearing-in for both Georgia senators, as well as Democrat Alex Padilla, who will fill the open U.S. Senate seat in California created by Harris’ ascension to the vice presidency.
Ossoff, 33, is now the youngest member of the Senate since then-U.S. Senator Joe Biden and the first Jewish person to represent Georgia in the U.S. Senate.
Warnock, who was a pastor at the Ebenezer Baptist Church — Martin Luther King Jr.’s church — is the first black senator to serve the state in the U.S. Senate and the eleventh black senator in U.S. history.
Some Republican officials faulted former President Donald Trump for the Democrats’ wins, saying that his unfounded claims that the election was “rigged” and plagued by widespread voter fraud lost Loeffler and Perdue their races.
Warnock bested Loeffler 51 percent to 49 percent, while Ossoff defeated Perdue 50.6 percent to 49.4 percent.
Ahead of the election, Republican strategists voiced concern that Trump’s rhetoric would push voters to stay home — either due to the belief that the elections would be rigged or to punish the state’s Republican establishment.
The Senate is now split 50-50, with Democrats holding a slight majority as Harris holds the tie-breaking vote. Senator Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.), who will now serve as Senate majority leader, met with incoming Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday to negotiate a power-sharing agreement between the parties.
Following the meeting, Schumer said he supported an agreement similar to one brokered between the parties in 2001, the last time the Senate saw a 50-50 split. Republicans and Democrats then reached an agreement calling for the parties to compromise on the Senate schedule and to have an equal number of senators from each party on committees.
“Leader Schumer expressed that the fairest, most reasonable and easiest path forward is to adopt the 2001 bipartisan agreement without extraneous changes from either side,” said Justin Goodman, a spokesman for Schumer.