LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell won’t get his old job as Senate majority leader in January after voters decided Democrats would keep control of the upper house.
It was unclear what the outcome of Tuesday’s election would mean for days of control of the Senate as votes were counted in close races across the state. However, Democrats won the majority this weekend when Democratic U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada, the first Latina U.S. senator, won her highly competitive re-election bid.
The GOP and McConnell had hoped to flip the Senate in last week’s election, but that didn’t happen. That means McConnell, who Senate Republicans are expected to retain as their top official, is slated to remain Senate minority leader — a leadership role he was demoted to in January 2021 after Democrats won a razor-thin majority.
Here’s what that means for the kind of power he’ll be able to wield.
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McConnell still can’t set the Senate agenda
The majority leader has the ability to determine which proposals come up for a vote in the Senate and which do not.
When he held the job from January 2015 to January 2021, McConnell used that power to block bills. That is why he was accused of a “legislative graveyard” of proposals that died on his desk.
Thanks to the Democratic victory, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is poised to continue setting the agenda for him.
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McConnell, however, can continue to block things
Democrats failed to win a majority in the 60-seat Senate, so McConnell and other Republican senators retain the ability to block most legislation.
Thanks to the filibuster — the 60-vote threshold senators must reach to advance most bills — Democrats need the support of at least several Republicans to pass many proposals. This gives McConnell and his team leverage over which bills will succeed and which won’t.
But they can’t block everything. Senate Democrats can continue to confirm President Joe Biden’s nominees for federal justice even without the support of any Republican colleagues, for example, because those nominations can advance with just 51 votes.
Just because McConnell can still lead debaters on legislation doesn’t mean he’s going to screw everything up. For example, he has supported two particularly notable bipartisan bills since 2021:
Maintains bargaining power for Kentucky
McConnell’s successful re-election bid in 2020 centered on how he is helping his home state “punch above its weight” against heavy hitters like California.
His influence isn’t as strong as it was when he was majority leader, but it’s still important, even when it comes to delivering state funds to Kentucky.
When McConnell lost the majority leadership, University of Kentucky political science professor Stephen Voss said it didn’t put the state in danger of a big cut in federal aid.
Kentucky generally receives a disproportionate share of federal dollars compared to other states, in part because of its high poverty rate, Voss said. In addition, McConnell remains one of the top four leaders in Congress.
In fact, McConnell noted in a January 2021 interview that he would “still be one of the Big Four,” saying, “When you get done with the big negotiations at the end of the year, each of the four of us has veto power over what goes and what doesn’t. “
Reach reporter Morgan Watkins at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter: @morganwatkins26.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Mitch McConnell Will Not Become Senate Majority Leader. What does that mean