The Senate unanimously adopted yesterday an organizing resolution where both parties agreed to a bipartisan power-sharing. This sets the Senate’s ground rules even as the chamber is evenly split 50-50. Vice President Kamala Harris holds the tiebreaker. Because of Harris, the Democrats will hold the majority.
The previous lack of an organizing resolution created an unusual Senate. Republicans technically remained committee chairs for committees. GOP members also handled the confirmation process and scheduling. This created delays for the confirmation of appointees. It also prevented new members from getting their committee assignments.
Bipartisan Power Sharing
Senator Chuck Schumer (NY), the Senate Majority leader, hailed the new agreement. The Democrats are now “ready to hit the ground running” with President Joe Biden’s agenda. “Senate Democrats are not going to waste any time taking on the biggest challenges facing our country and our planet,” Schumer added. Also, he said he gave instructions for incoming Democratic chairs of relevant committees. They can now begin holding hearings on major climate legislation.
Meanwhile, Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY) said this is similar to a 2001 agreement. He thinks the setup allows the Senate to operate “fairly” even as it’s split down the middle. Afterward, both Schumer and McConnell announced new committee assignments.
In the 2001 agreement, each party will receive an equal number of committee seats. However, the majority party will hold the committee chairmanships. Also, the majority will also control the agenda. Also, Dems can schedule the floor votes, even for items with tied committee votes.
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Similar to 2001, both parties agreed to a colloquy or informal understanding. This helped both sides to address the issue of filling the amendment tree. Previously, there were restrictions to get amendment votes. This prevented senators from actively participating in the legislative process.
Schumer noted that this time, they will dramatically increase the number of member-initiated amendments. In addition, Schumer said he also opposes limiting amendments by “filling the tree.” unless obstruction prevented the Senate from taking action, leaving leaders no alternative.
McConnell managed to get a valuable concession. He got the Democrats to agree to train the legislative filibuster. The filibuster is a Senate rule that requires 60 votes to advance most legislation, giving minority members a chance to influence the agenda. When Democrat Senators Joe Manchin (WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (AZ) said they support the filibuster, McConnell dropped his opposition. In addition, McConnell said he would avoid “lengthy debates” on procedural votes for legislation with significant bipartisan support.
Previously, the lack of agreement between the two parties bogged down Senate procedures. IT affected the confirmation of several of President Joe Biden’s Cabinet nominees. Senator Lindsey Graham, the Republican chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said no to a request to schedule a hearing for attorney general nominee Merrick Garland. Graham said that the Senate needs to focus on former president Donald Trump’s incoming impeachment trial.
New Secretary of the Senate as Well
As tradition decrees, the Senate also replaces the Secretary of the Senate. In addition to the power-sharing agreement, Schumer said that Sonceria “Ann” Berry will take over as Secretary beginning March 1. Berry, who replaces Julie Adams, is the first African-American to assume the role. She is also the eighth woman to do so.
Watch the Bloomberg Quicktake video reporting that US Senators Schumer and McConnell reach a power-sharing deal in a 50/50 Senate:
Do you support the bipartisan power-sharing between the Democrats and the Republicans? Also, do you think this arrangement will help push bipartisan results? Or, will it result in even more deadlocks?