Georgia Senate runoff will affect scope of Biden’s education program and “wider political dynamics” in Washington

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America could know as early as Tuesday night which party controls the US Senate – and perhaps the scope of President-elect Joe Biden’s education program.

The outcome depends on Georgian voters, who vote in a decisive second round. A Senate race pits Republican Kelly Loeffler, who the state governor appointed last year to complete the term of retired Senator Johnny Isakson, against Democrat Raphael Warnock, pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church.

In the other, outgoing Republican David Perdue is running for a second term and faces Democrat Jon Ossoff, a media executive.

The results could determine the support Biden will receive for the more expensive and progressive parts of his education program, such as tripling funding for very poor schools, forgiving student loans and continuing with another program. emergency aid in the event of a pandemic. While the president-elect is expected to use executive powers to bring back some Obama-era policies, experts have said that with the run-off and the thinnest of Democratic majorities in the House, Biden will have to call on GOP moderates in the two chambers to move major legislation. .

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Republicans, who currently have 50 seats, only need to win one of the two races to retain their majority. If the house is split 50-50, Democrats will take control with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris as a tiebreaker.

A political trifecta in Washington – when a party controls the White House and both houses of Congress – is rare and usually doesn’t last long, according to Michael Barone, resident fellow of the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank. Since 1969, Democrats have only occupied the White House, House, and Senate for a total of eight years.

“It’s not as monumental inside the Senate. It’s monumental for the wider political dynamic, ”said Bethany Little, director of EducationCounsel, an education consultancy firm. When Democrats control the White House, the House, then take the Senate, “that’s when the game changed.”

As President-elect Joe Biden won Georgia, the latest polls show no clear favorites in either Senate race. According to FiveThirtyEight, Loeffler follows Warnock from 48% to 50%, while Ossoff leads Perdue from 49% to 48%. Perdue is spending the remainder of the campaign in quarantine after being exposed to someone with COVID-19, but President Donald Trump is planning a Monday night rally for the two Republicans, while Biden is expected to travel to Atlanta for the Democrats. Democrats seized the start of the pandemic stock trading by Loeffler and Perdue as evidence of wrongdoing. GOP senators, however, maintain that they have done nothing wrong. Leoffler and Perdue describe their opponents as radical leftists.

The importance of running is evidenced by energy and resources Republicans and Democrats flow into the state. Some analysts forecast spending on advertising campaign could reach $ 500 million in an already record-breaking year for expenses on congressional races.

The role of centrists

With congressional control undecided until after the second round, confirmation hearings for Education Secretary-designate Miguel Cardona and other cabinet candidates could be waiting, especially if a winner in each race is not immediately clear. But with Biden choosing not to pick a union leader for the education secretary – an option multiple media have reported that he is considering – he will likely have an easier time gaining Senate approval for the post, even if Republicans retain control.

Confirmations from Cabinet members require 51 votes. But with a 60-vote rule in place to end debates over major legislation, Biden will need more votes on some proposals, like another COVID-19 relief plan.

That’s why even if the Democrats take control, they will seek the support of moderate Republicans such as Mitt Romney of Utah, Susan Collins of Maine, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska – all members of the education committee. Republicans, on the other hand, will continue to appeal to Democrats they see as more bipartisan, like West Virginia’s Joe Manchin.

“Senators who are prepared to vote with the other side will certainly receive a lot of attention and probably very favorable treatment of any issues that disproportionately affect their states,” said Steven White, assistant professor of political science at the ‘Syracuse University in New York. York.

The last time there was a 50-50 split in the Senate was 20 years ago, when Congress passed one of the most ambitious education laws in American history – No Child Left Behind. President George W. Bush signed the law about a year after defeating Democrat Al Gore – another court-debated election. But the equal division in the Senate did not lead to a partisan deadlock. The NCLB was just a major bill emanating from a Congress united by war in the Middle East after 9/11.

“People think 50-50 is polarizing, but it wasn’t,” said Little, with EducationCounsel, who at the time was working as chief education adviser to the Senate committee on l ‘education. “It was very positive for the centrist, moderate and bipartisan work.”

Then-Senate Leader Trent Lott and Democratic Leader Tom Daschle negotiated a power-sharing compromise in which the committees were also split 50-50, but with Republicans as chairpersons. They even wrote a book about it in 2016, hoping their bipartisan efforts would inspire current members.

But such fellowship might be impossible now. Reports between Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and current Minority Leader Chuck Schumer have worsened since McConnell stepped up confirmation from Conservative Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and after months of bitter struggles for relief legislation.

If there are few senators working to find common ground, it could “change the math,” Little said. But the moderates have already demonstrated their influence pushing for agreement on the most recent relief bill after many other efforts failed. “This would not have happened if the centrists had not relaunched negotiations,” she added.

The future of school choice

Loeffler, also a member of the education committee, is not one of these centrists. True to Trump, she pushed for increased funding for the choice of private schools.

In September, she sponsored a school choice invoice this would give low-income families and those with children with special needs access to federal funds for the expenses of private schools or homeschools.

But Julia Martin, legislative director of Brustein and Manasevit, a Washington-based education law firm, said that once President Donald Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos would no longer be in Washington defending the choice of school, Loeffler might have a harder time attracting an audience for the problem.

“Without the secretary in an active role there, you wonder how she’s going to insist on this,” Martin said.

The future of the choice of school in the courts is another question which rests on the composition of the Senate.

“A Democratic-controlled Senate would appoint more progressive judges who would be less inclined to speak in favor of school-choice supporters and those who defend religious institutions,” said Leslie Finger, assistant professor of political science at the University of North Texas. “With Republican control of the chamber, judicial appointments are sure to be delayed.”

In addition to confirming Barrett, the McConnell-led Senate rushed to fill Federal Court vacancies with candidates from Trump. There are currently 53 vacant jobs in the federal court system, with 30 applicants pending.

Perdue sits on the armed forces, banking, budget and foreign relations committees. When he ran for office in 2014, he pleaded for “definancing” the Ministry of Education. Last year he co-sponsored legislation this would have allowed education modules – small groups of students learning together while schools operate remotely – to receive federal funding, without interference from states and localities. The bill would also have allowed “home educators” to get the same tax deduction for expenses as teachers. Loeffler was a co-sponsor of the bill, which died in the finance committee.

Perdue was the sole sponsor of the SCHOOL – or Safely Create Healthy Opening Options Locally – Law that would create a $ 55 billion grant program to cover COVID-19 testing and expenses related to reopening schools, including cleanup, masks and other supplies. The bill went to the education committee but never went any further.

Defenders of charter schools are also closely monitoring the outcome of the second round. Ron Rice, senior director of government relations at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, said that even if Warnock or Ossoff campaigned on the idea that charters hurt traditional schools, they should “rule like moderates” because of the strong voter support for the charter. schools.

In a recent post-election webinar, he counted former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, who defeated incumbent Cory Gardner in November, among other Congressional Democrats who supported charter schools, including Cory. Booker from New Jersey, Diane Feinstein from California and Dick Durbin. from Illinois.

Biden is expected to be tougher on charters than some school choice experts would like and has said he doesn’t want federal funds going to for-profit operators. But Rice said the president-elect would likely rule as a moderate on the issue.

“I don’t think there is a charter shock team in the incoming administration,” he said.

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