NYT reporter on Georgia Senate runoff: ‘It’s a big deal’

Dec 6, 2022, 11:46 AM | Updated: 1:56 pm
GA Voter Georgia Senate...
After all the hype, Georgia is finally getting to vote on the U.S. Senate race between Senator Raphael Warnock (D) and challenger Herschel Walker (R). (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

After all the hype, Georgia is finally getting to vote on the U.S. Senate race between Senator Raphael Warnock (D) and challenger Herschel Walker (R).

On Seattle’s Morning News, Travis Mayfield spoke with New York Times investigative reporter David Fahrenthold about that race and other top stories of the day.

Here is their discussion.

Travis Mayfield, KIRO Newsradio: Let’s start in Georgia. The Democrats have the majority in the U.S. Senate. Does this Senate race really mean anything?

NY Times investigative reporter David Fahrenthold:  It’s a big deal. You said the Democrats will control the Senate in the next Congress. But whether it’s 51 votes or 50, it makes a difference logistically, and now you need Vice President Kamala Harris to come to the Capitol every time you take any sort of vote to break the tie.

She’s a busy person, and that keeps her in Washington, D.C., and keeps the Senate sort of backlogged. If you’re 51 votes, you don’t need that. You could also give Democrats a majority, and a lot of Senate committees would move a lot faster. Obviously, the Republicans are going to have the house, and not a huge amount of legislation is going to get done. But it will be a lot easier to confirm judicial nominees and things like that if they have 51.

Mayfield: That will be a very big deal for the Biden administration in the next two years. So what’s left for the lame-duck Congress to accomplish?

Fahrenthold: Oh my God, a lot. There’s a huge amount. There’s a bill that would make same-sex marriage legal around the country. There’s a new thing that was announced yesterday by Senator Krysten Sinema (D-Arizona) that was supposed to be a framework for immigration reform. So that might happen in this Congress.

There are also questions about defense authorization and about raising the debt ceiling.

Mayfield: I also want to pick your brain about something that surprised us, honestly. And it’s President Biden in what seems to be a sudden turn against labor unions when it comes to really pushing them to not strike when it comes to the rail workers. Was this a betrayal of unions by President Biden and the Democrats?

Fahrenthold: I don’t think Biden sees it that way. I think certainly the union was a very, very sympathetic cause in this fight with the railroad. The union basically has no paid sick days. They can’t take any off and get paid to go to the doctor. But their strike would have been right before Christmas, which would have messed up everybody’s Christmas shipments.

I think this was Biden realizing the political hit that he would take and the inconvenience he would cause the whole country if there was a real shutdown.

I think that the union is disappointed, and unions would generally be against him. This is a decision that I think was really hard for everyone.

Mayfield: Can I ask about the Supreme Court yesterday, hearing arguments where this web designer in Colorado said that she didn’t want to be forced when she opens her business to make wedding announcements for same-sex couples? But Colorado’s argument is that violates our state law, which prohibits discrimination. Listening to some of the questioning and the line of questioning from the court here. The justice’s super-majority for conservatives here seems to be leaning toward protecting or siding with these Christian artists. Is that how you’re reading things?

Fahrenthold: That’s right. This is just kind of a weird case, to explain to people in the real world because, yes, this person hasn’t even started her business yet. And she’s in a lawsuit about whether, when she starts her theoretical business, could theoretical gay clients come to her, and could you theoretically turn them away.

But yes, I do think the justices seemed likely to rule for her. The question on everybody’s mind in the Court yesterday was how could they limit that so that they wouldn’t be sort of throwing open like invalidating a lot of other anti-discrimination laws. They want to make this sort of narrow – as narrow as possible.

And one way they can be thinking about it was, was this a speech case? You know, was she more analogous to like a newspaper publisher, or, you know, somebody who’s publishing something, rather than somebody who is baking a cake or performing some other sort of service? I think that Colorado would argue that she’s more like a bus company that refuses to serve people of a particular race or particular sexual orientation. She’s saying, ‘No, I’m this newspaper. You know, I don’t want to print your content. You can’t make me speak, violating the rights of free speech and making me say something I don’t believe in.'”

David Fahrenthold is NY Times investigative reporter who appears regularly on KIRO Newsradio’s Seattle’s Morning News

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News with Dave Ross and Colleen O’Brien weekday mornings from 5 – 9 a.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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NYT reporter on Georgia Senate runoff: ‘It’s a big deal’