Insider

Your all-access pass to FP

What Georgia’s Senate Results Mean for Biden’s Foreign Policy

As Congress hangs in the balance, Obama’s national security advisor explains how a president can deal with a less than cooperative legislature.

By , a former editor in chief of Foreign Policy.
National Security Advisor Tom Donilon speaks at a luncheon by the Economic Club of Washington in Washington, D.C. on Sep. 16, 2011.
National Security Advisor Tom Donilon speaks at a luncheon by the Economic Club of Washington in Washington, D.C. on Sep. 16, 2011.
U.S. National Security Advisor Tom Donilon speaks at a luncheon by the Economic Club of Washington in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 16, 2011. Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

On Jan. 5, voting concluded in a runoff election for the U.S. state of Georgia’s two Senate seats. These ballots will decide not just who represents Georgia in Congress’s upper house but which party controls the Senate as a whole: If both Democratic candidates win, as seems increasingly likely, their party will hold 50 seats—enough, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’s tie-breaking vote, to run things there. But only barely; given the razor-thin margin, both progressives and a few center-right senators (Joe Manchin, Suzanne Collins, and Mitt Romney) could hold the institution hostage and complicate President-elect Joe Biden’s plans. On Tuesday evening, with the Georgia results still uncertain, Foreign Policy’s editor-at-large Jonathan Tepperman spoke to Tom Donilon, who served as former President Barack Obama’s national security advisor from 2010 to 2013—another period when Democrats lacked congressional control—about how the incoming president can navigate the challenge and find ways to push through his agenda without legislative support. The following conversation has been edited for clarity and length.

Jonathan Tepperman is a former editor in chief of Foreign Policy and the author of The Fix: How Countries Use Crises to Solve the World’s Worst Problems. Twitter: @j_tepperman

More from Foreign Policy

A photo illustration shows Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Joe Biden posing on pedestals atop the bipolar world order, with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, and Russian President Vladamir Putin standing below on a gridded floor.
A photo illustration shows Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Joe Biden posing on pedestals atop the bipolar world order, with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, and Russian President Vladamir Putin standing below on a gridded floor.

No, the World Is Not Multipolar

The idea of emerging power centers is popular but wrong—and could lead to serious policy mistakes.

A view from the cockpit shows backlit control panels and two pilots inside a KC-130J aerial refueler en route from Williamtown to Darwin as the sun sets on the horizon.
A view from the cockpit shows backlit control panels and two pilots inside a KC-130J aerial refueler en route from Williamtown to Darwin as the sun sets on the horizon.

America Prepares for a Pacific War With China It Doesn’t Want

Embedded with U.S. forces in the Pacific, I saw the dilemmas of deterrence firsthand.

The Chinese flag is raised during the opening ceremony of the Beijing Winter Olympics at Beijing National Stadium on Feb. 4, 2022.
The Chinese flag is raised during the opening ceremony of the Beijing Winter Olympics at Beijing National Stadium on Feb. 4, 2022.

America Can’t Stop China’s Rise

And it should stop trying.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky looks on prior a meeting with European Union leaders in Mariinsky Palace, in Kyiv, on June 16, 2022.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky looks on prior a meeting with European Union leaders in Mariinsky Palace, in Kyiv, on June 16, 2022.

The Morality of Ukraine’s War Is Very Murky

The ethical calculations are less clear than you might think.