Biden's agenda at stake, battle for Senate pushes to January

Sen. Dan Sullivan, right front, R-Alaska, poses for a photograph with supporter Rolando Torralba at a campaign party Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020, in Anchorage, Alaska. (AP Photo/Michael Dinneen)
Sen. Dan Sullivan, right front, R-Alaska, poses for a photograph with supporter Rolando Torralba at a campaign party Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020, in Anchorage, Alaska. (AP Photo/Michael Dinneen) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

WASHINGTON – Control of the Senate won’t be decided until January runoffs in Georgia after neither party Wednesday locked down a majority, launching a mammoth battle to shape President-elect Joe Biden's agenda and determine the balance of power in Washington.

The deadlock became official after Republicans held the Senate seat in Alaska. There, incumbent GOP Sen. Dan Sullivan defeated Al Gross, an independent running as a Democrat, after an onslaught of mail-in ballots delayed counting until Tuesday, a week after Election Day. A short while later, North Carolina GOP Sen. Thom Tillis defeated Democratic challenger Cal Cunningham.

Democrats are now denied an immediate path to the majority, but Republicans are also short. Instead, the sprint to the Jan. 5 runoffs for two seats in Georgia will determine whether the Senate becomes a Republican-held check on Biden's agenda or a Democratic partnership with the new White House.

“We’ve got to go win Georgia,” said Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., the incoming chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, after he was elected by his colleagues Tuesday.

Democrats are amassing an army of volunteers, fueled by a fresh onslaught of donations from Americans nationwide eager to ensure the Senate, like the Democratic-majority House, has Biden's back.

The “entire Democratic infrastructure” is going to focus on winning Georgia, said one aide, granted anonymity to discuss the situation.

With Biden’s victory, Republicans would need 51 seats for majority control, since the vice president of the party in the White House — soon to be Kamala Harris — becomes a tie-breaker in the Senate.

As the tally now stands, Republicans will have a 50-48 hold on the Senate heading into the new Congress.