Democrats retain control of the Senate after holding Nevada seat

U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto is seen Monday. The Democrat defeated Adam Laxalt, a Trump-backed Republican and former Nevada attorney general. The win means Democrats retain the U.S. Senate.
U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto is seen Monday. The Democrat defeated Adam Laxalt, a Trump-backed Republican and former Nevada attorney general. The win means Democrats retain the U.S. Senate.
Gregory Bull/AP

Despite some very tight races, Democrats have held on to their slim majority in the U.S. Senate.

The chamber was decided Saturday evening after Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto defeated Republican nominee Adam Laxalt, a former state attorney general, according to a race call by The Associated Press.

That gives Democrats 50 Senate seats, which is enough for the majority with Vice President Harris' tiebreaking vote.

The U.S. House remains up for grabs, with Republicans maintaining a narrow inside track to the majority.

Nevada was one of Republicans' top targets, and Cortez Masto's reelection was a toss-up coming into the election. She was running neck and neck with Laxalt, Nevada's former attorney general who was endorsed by former President Donald Trump.

As of the AP race call, Cortez Masto had a lead of about 5,000 votes.

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Democrats could add to their margin in the Senate, if incumbent Raphael Warnock defeats Republican challenger Herschel Walker in a runoff in Georgia on Dec. 6.

If Republicans take the House, it's unlikely the two chambers will find much common ground and the dynamic tees up some clashes over government funding bills and increasing the debt ceiling. A Democratic hold of the House would mean President Biden's party would maintain its trifecta of power for another two years.

In the Senate, questions of whether to modify the filibuster will likely also take center stage, as Democrats still remain short of a 60-vote supermajority and would need to bypass the filibuster if they want to pass major legislative priorities.

A secure Democratic majority in the Senate also preserves Democrats' ability to approve Biden's nominees, including any future vacancies on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Earlier this cycle, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell predicted there was a "greater likelihood the House flips than the Senate," citing, in part, "candidate quality."

Another factor that played a role in Democrats' defending their majorities is the issue of abortion rights. After the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, researchers saw a distinct increase in voter registration among women and young people. While national polls indicated that the economy and inflation were top of mind, there's no doubt that the issue of abortion rights played a crucial role in motivating voters and increasing fundraising for Democratic candidates.

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