Georgia’s Senate Election Results to Impact Higher Ed Policy

By Hugh T. Ferguson, NASFAA Staff Reporter 

The state of Georgia is holding a pair of Senate runoff races today and the results will determine party control of the Senate, resulting in either unified government control by Democrats, or a divided government with Republicans maintaining control of the chamber.

Sen. David Perdue is running for reelection against Democrat Jon Ossoff while Sen. Kelly Loeffler faces Democrat Raphael Warnock in a special election. Both of these races resulted in a runoff because no candidate in either race garnered 50% of the vote from November’s election.

The makeup of Washington will have a number of implications for the higher education community, including the likelihood of additional pandemic relief, reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA), expansion of the Pell Grant program, college affordability, and student loan debt relief.

Prior to the presidential election, congressional Democrats previewed their higher education agenda. And while Democrats secured the presidency with President-elect Joe Biden’s win, their congressional majorities, which leaders had hoped to expand, will be slim at best.

House Democrats saw their majority shrink and Senate Democrats’ best hope is for a razor-thin majority, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris breaking any 50-50 votes.

As a presidential candidate, Harris released a complex plan to wipe out student loan debt. Read more about Harris’ higher education platform on our 2020 Presidential Candidates Archive.

While the legislative agenda could easily change due to the ongoing fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, the runoff election results will determine which party gains control of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee.

With the retirement of the Senate education committee’s Chairman, Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), the panel will be led by a new member. Should both Democrat candidates win, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), who has served as ranking member, would lead the panel. If Republicans win a single seat, the leadership race would likely come down to Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) — but the dynamics for GOP leadership could hinge on other available committee assignments.

Results of Georgia’s runoff elections could take a few days to be finalized — stay tuned to Today’s News for updates.


Publication Date: 1/5/2021

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