Senate leaders reach deal to fully transfer power to Democrats, Schumer says

Senate leaders reach deal to fully transfer power to Democrats, Schumer says

February 3, 2021
  • The Senate has reached a deal on how to share power in an evenly split chamber, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said.
  • For two weeks since Democrats took control of a 50-50 Senate, the lack of a power sharing agreement left Republicans in control of committees.
  • Lack of full Senate control threatened to delay confirmation of some of President Joe Biden's Cabinet nominees and potentially passage of legislation.

Senate leaders reached a deal to transfer control of committees to Democrats, two weeks after the party took control of the chamber, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Wednesday.

The New York Democrat came to a deal with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., on how to share power in a Senate split 50-50. The two wrangled for weeks over how to structure Senate rules, technically leaving Republicans in control of committees that decide when to move ahead with nominations and legislation.

Schumer said the Senate will pass the organizing resolution later Wednesday. Approval will mean "committees can promptly set up and get to work with Democrats holding the gavels," he added.

Republicans worked with Democrats to confirm several of President Joe Biden's nominees while they still held committee power. The Senate approved Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Tuesday, giving Biden six Cabinet members confirmed by the chamber.

Even so, GOP control threatened to delay approval of at least one of Biden's nominees. The top Republican and Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Dick Durbin of Illinois, respectively, had disagreed over when to hold a confirmation hearing for Attorney General nominee Merrick Garland.

McConnell had sought assurances that Democrats would not scrap the filibuster, which would allow any legislation to pass with a majority vote. The disagreement became moot when Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona said they would not vote to get rid of the tool.

The agreement comes as Democrats attempt to approve a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package to buoy the health-care system and economy. They have started the budget reconciliation process, which will allow them to approve a bill with only Democratic votes in the Senate.

A budget resolution, which the chamber hopes to pass this week, instructs committee chairs to draft provisions in the rescue package. Schumer and the incoming committee leaders plan to meet with Biden on Wednesday.

Incoming Senate committee chairs will include:

  • Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio at the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont at the Budget Committee
  • Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon at the Finance Committee
  • Sen. Patty Murray of Washington at the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee
  • Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington at the Commerce Committee
  • Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia at the Energy and Natural Resources Committee
  • Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois at the Judiciary Committee

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