Almost a month after the Democrats gained majority power in the U.S. Senate following their two victories in Georgia, they will finally be able to exert functional control after Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell reached a deal on Wednesday, as reported by The Hill.
After weeks of negotiation, Schumer announced that the two sides had come to an agreement from 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,” the Democrat said.
The results in Georgia that saw victories by the Democratic candidates Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff basically split the Senate evenly. It currently consists of 50 Republicans, 48 Democrats and two Independents. The two Independents, Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Angus King of Maine, caucus with the Democrats. The incoming Biden administration gives the deciding vote to Vice President Kamala Harris.
The deal is expected to share a similarity to the one set up in 2001, the last year that the Senate was split 50-50. The process then saw bills and nominations sent to the floor even in cases of tied votes at the committee level.
This also solves a Senate deadlock that was in place since Warnock and Ossoff entered the chamber and Democrats became the majority party. McConnell had previously threatened to filibuster any resolutions that would have organized the Senate unless he received an assurance that the Democrats would not attempt to remove the filibuster. This created an unusual setup where the floor of the Senate was controlled by Democrats but the committees remained in Republican control. The organizing resolution was required before the committee’s party makeup in the 117th Congress could be determined.
One example of the unorthodox process created by the impasse was incoming Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin asking Lindsey Graham, who was still the chairman, to hold a hearing for President Joe Biden’s attorney general nominee Merrick Garland. Graham was able to deny the request.
Schumer and McConnell were thought to be close to a deal for several weeks, but disagreement over the filibuster created a stand-off. When it is employed, the Senate would require 60 votes of approval for legislation to pass.
“Look, it was set back when Leader McConnell made an extraneous demand trying to tell our caucus how to run things when we’re in the majority. But we’re making progress and we’re getting close,” Schumer told reporters on Tuesday, explaining the situation.
McConnell dropped the issue after Democrat Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema voiced opposition to removing the method.