Outcomes of US Senate special elections will likely boost US foreign assistance

The outcome of two US special elections in the state of Georgia, giving Democrats a slim majority in the Senate and thus meaning there is a Democratic majority in both houses of Congress, will likely change funding for US foreign assistance, expedite confirmations of key appointees in the next administration, and result in new policies.

The runoff elections were held because none of the US Senate candidates in Georgia received the required 50% of overall votes in the November 2020 general election. The outcome means that the makeup of the US Senate will be 50-50, but Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will break any tie. Although a slim margin, this gives Democrats control of all committees and allows them to set the agenda. 

Development advocates believe that this will bring increased funding for US foreign assistance, including for polarizing topics such as climate change and family planning. Confirmation of political appointees in the new administration will not face the obstruction that a Republican majority may have imposed. Policy changes, such as the permanent repeal of the Mexico City Policy—also known as the 'global gag rule'—may be legislatively possible.

Some experts cautioned, however, that large increases in funding, even for the COVID-19 global response, may be difficult. Bipartisan support for US foreign assistance has been strong, but a sharp increase in funding will now likely raise Republicans' concerns regarding debt and deficit.

News article - Devex