Senate Standoff Ends With 'Democrats Holding the Gavels'

Schumer, McConnell reach deal on 50-50 Senate
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 3, 2021 11:50 AM CST
Senate Standoff Ends With 'Democrats Holding the Gavels'
Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., stands with Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., as a joint session of the House and Senate convenes to confirm the Electoral College votes cast in November's election, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021.   (Kevin Dietsch/Pool via AP)

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced an agreement Wednesday with Republicans to organize the evenly split chamber, ending a weekslong standoff, reports the AP. Schumer said that he and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell had agreed on committee ratios and other details in the 50-50 chamber, where Democrats have the slim edge because Vice President Kamala Harris is a tie-breaking vote. The agreement, awaiting approval in a Senate vote, means Democrats can take control of the committees and set up other operations that have stalled. Democrats hope to hold a confirmation hearing Monday for Merrick Garland, President Biden's nominee for attorney general. Senators can now promptly “get to work, with Democrats holding the gavels,” Schumer said.

Organizing the Senate is typically a routine procedure at the start of a new Congress. But the prolonged negotiations involved a power play by McConnell as Republicans refused to relinquish control without first trying to extract concessions from Democrats that Schumer refused to give. In particular, McConnell wanted Schumer to commit that Democrats would not end the legislative filibuster. Getting rid of that procedural tool would make it easier for the new majority to approve Biden's agenda on a 51-vote threshold, rather than the 60 votes typically needed to advance bills. Schumer refused to yield, but two centrist Democrats, Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Krysten Sinema of Arizona, announced they would prefer to keep the filibuster intact. That essentially denied Schumer the votes needed to change the rules, and McConnell dropped his demands.

(More Senate stories.)

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