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Senate Democrats take control in power-sharing deal

Published: Feb. 4, 2021 at 4:40 PM EST
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - After weeks of negotiations, the Senate approved a resolution, brokered by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), laying out the balance of power in the chamber. Democrats won control of the Senate after winning two run-off elections in Georgia, but the chamber is evenly split.

“I am happy to report this morning that the leadership of both parties have finalized the organizing resolution for the Senate,” Sen Schumer said during a speech Wednesday on the Senate floor. “We will pass the resolution through the Senate today, which means that committees can promptly set up and get to work with Democrats holding the gavels.”

While the details of the agreement have not yet been released publicly, ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.) says the deal gives Democrats the green light to take the reins in committee. However, he says each subgroup will be evenly split and both the Chairman and Ranking member will have the power to advance legislation in the event of a tie.

“If you have a 50-50 tie, it doesn’t hamstring everything,” said Sen. Boozman. “There is a process you can work through.”

In the full chamber, Vice President Kamala Harris’s tie-breaking vote gives Democrats the edge. Although, the margin of power is very thin.

Jason Grumet with the Bipartisan Policy Center says, while the agreement will help democrats move forward on policy initiatives, it could also mean gridlock.

“There’s some optimism that they will actually be able to create a more traditional bipartisan approach,” said Grumet. “But, on this first stimulus bill, if there is united opposition from the minority party, then that will signal we are into the long slog of a divided government.”

Negotiations over the resolution had been stalled when Sen. McConnell insisted the arrangement should protect the minority party and the filibuster, which requires a supermajority threshold to cut off debate in the Senate and bring legislative measures to a vote. McConnell reportedly dropped this demand.

Leaders say they modeled this deal after a similar arrangement made in 2001, the last time the Senate was evenly divided.

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