Senate Leaders Reach Deal To Fully Transfer Power To Democrats

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) have reached a power-sharing deal, effectively transitioning the Senate from Republican hands to Democrat hands.

The Senate is evenly split along party lines, 50-50, but Vice President Kamala Harris, a Democrat, would cast the deciding vote in any tie, effectively giving Democrats the ability to declare themselves the Senate’s controlling party. Had Republicans instead of Democrats prevailed in two runoff elections for both of Georgia’s Senate seats back in early January, the Senate would have remained in Republican hands.

The new agreement gives Schumer the ability to use the title “Senate Majority Leader,” demotes McConnell to “Senate Minority Leader,” and “allows Democrats to take control of committees and comes after weeks of negotiation between the two leaders,” per Politico.

Up until Wednesday, the Senate had been operating without an organizing resolution, leaving control of certain committees in limbo. “Republicans still technically held committee gavels and were overseeing the confirmation process for President Joe Biden’s nominees, even though Democrats hold the majority,” Politico notes. “It also meant that new members of the Senate had not yet received their committee assignments. Schumer announced new committee assignments for Democrats on Tuesday.”

Democrats were under particular pressure to get an agreement hammered out this week so that Democrats, and not Republicans, would preside over former President Donald Trump’s impeachment hearing, set to be held early next week. Democrats are also eager to press forward with some of President Joe Biden’s more controversial Cabinet picks, including his pick for Attorney General, Merrick Garland, and his pick to run the Office of Management and Budget, progressive activist Neera Tanden.

Details of the agreement are still under wraps, but the compromise does not, reportedly, contain language protecting the filibuster — something McConnell had been trying to put into writing. Instead, McConnell is now leaning on “moderate” Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and independent Democrat Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) to remain steadfast in their commitment to preserving the filibuster, preventing Democrats from getting the 61 votes needed to change Senate rules on the matter.

“Basic arithmetic now ensures that there are not enough votes to change the rule,” McConnell said last week when news of his decision to drop filibuster protections emerged.

Schumer was quick to suggest that Democrats would get started on committee work Wednesday, prioritizing President Joe Biden’s proposed climate change legislation, per Fox News.

“I’ve already instructed the incoming Democratic chairs of all relevant committees to begin holding hearings on the climate crisis in preparation for enacting President Biden’s ‘Build Back Better’ agenda,” Schumer said Wednesday.

“I’m confident that our members are ready to hit the ground running on the most important issues that face our country,” he continued. “Senate Democrats are not going to waste any time taking on the biggest challenges facing our country and our planet.”

The Senate has had power-sharing agreements similar to the one in practice now. The new agreement is reportedly “modeled after the organizing resolution from 2001 — the last time there was a 50/50 Senate.” In that case, however, the Senate did not switch hands.

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