The 20th amendment to the constitution of the USA states

The terms of the President and Vice President shall end at noon on the 20th day of January, and the terms of Senators and Representatives at noon on the 3d day of January

But Georgia is having their Senate run-off election on 5 January.

Does this mean that Georgia has no representation in the Senate from noon on 3 January until the election results are made official? Will the Democrat party have a majority in the Senate for a few days and – if so – are they able to take advantage of it?

  • If GA has no senators, the GOP will have 50 and DEM will have 48. So the GOP will have the majority for the few days, not DEM. (Based on the current results- there may be one or two that are not official.)
    – Damila
    Nov 17, 2020 at 16:36
  • Yeah thanks, I should have checked the numbers before adding that last sentence to my question.
    – miken32
    Nov 17, 2020 at 18:51
  • The question is possibly moot. January 3rd is a Sunday, and past Congresses have not been sworn in on a Sunday.
    – DrSheldon
    Nov 19, 2020 at 23:01

1 Answer 1


The term for Senators is six years. Only about one-third of the seats have terms that expire on January 3 of odd years.

Kelly Loeffler was appointed to a seat previously held by Johnny Isakson. The term for that seat does not expire until January 3, 2023. Loeffler will hold that seat until the runoff is decided. Either Loeffler will continue or Raphael Warnock will finish the term.

The seat currently held by David Perdue will be vacant on January 3, 2021. After the runoff is decided, either Perdue will return or Jon Ossoff will get the seat.

For a few days beginning January 3, 2021, Republicans should have 51 Senators with Vice-President Mike Pence as president of the Senate. After the runoffs are decided, say January 6 or soon after, Republicans will have between 50 and 52 seats, inclusive, depending on the results of the elections.

On January 20, 2021, Vice-President-Elect Kamala Harris becomes president of the Senate. The seat she now holds will become vacant and Gov. Gavin Newsom (California) will appoint a replacement to complete the term which ends January 3, 2023. No doubt it will be a Democrat.

What Democrats may do, they cannot do until after January 20, and they will be limited if Republicans retain at least one of the Georgia seats.

  • Biden may also appoint senators to roles in his administration. If they accept, their seats will also be replaced by their governors, where possible. Obviously, this means he has to tread carefully to not widen the GOP tie/majority. Nov 17, 2020 at 18:20
  • @AzorAhai-him-The chance is literally 100% that he will only appoint Senators from states that have Democratic governors and effectively no chance that a DEM senator would lose in a special election. Maybe if GOP a governor in a solidly Democratic state (like Maryland) commits to appointing a Democrat.
    – Damila
    Nov 17, 2020 at 19:51
  • 3
    @Damila: A higher-profile example would be if Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts joins the administration (Gov. Charlie Baker is a Republican.) There are currently proposals before the Massachusetts House to change the law to require senate appointments be of the same party. Nov 17, 2020 at 20:09
  • @damila Yes, I know. It's just adding details for a reader unfamiliar with our system. Nov 17, 2020 at 22:18

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