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3 Feb, 2021 15:46

Democrats and GOP strike power-sharing agreement, allowing Dems to take over key Senate committees

Democrats and GOP strike power-sharing agreement, allowing Dems to take over key Senate committees

Democrats and Republicans have reached an agreement that will allow the Democrats to take control of several Senate committees. Though the party holds a slim majority, Republicans have until now held onto their committee seats.

“I am happy to report this morning that the leadership of both parties have finalized the organizing resolution for the Senate,” Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) said on the Senate floor on Wednesday. “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.”

Control of the Senate is split 50-50 between both parties, with Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote giving Democrats the upper hand. Despite holding this majority, Democratic lawmakers have not yet taken control of a number of Senate committees, as Schumer and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) have been negotiating a power-sharing arrangement for over a month.

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McConnell initially wanted a written agreement that the Democrats would not eliminate the filibuster rule, a move that would allow the Democratic party to pass all legislation with a simple majority instead of a two-thirds majority. When Democratic Senators Joe Manchin (West Virginia) and Kirsten Synema (Arizona) came out against eliminating the rule, McConnell dropped his objection. 

The remaining roadblocks were unknown, but with an agreement reached, a number of committees will now be handed over to Democrats. Crucially for the party, the Judiciary Committee chairmanship will pass from Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) to Dick Durbin (D-Illinois). Durbin will likely hold a confirmation hearing for President Joe Biden’s nominee for Attorney General, Merrick Garland, next week. Garland’s confirmation had been let slide by Graham, who argued that the Senate needed time to prepare for the impeachment trial of former president Donald Trump.

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Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, the two Georgia Democrats whose wins last month ended Republican control of the Senate, have also been waiting to take their committee seats: Ossoff to the Judiciary Committee and Warnock to the Agriculture Committee, and both to the Banking Committee.

Democrats “are ready to hit the ground running on the most important issues that face our country,” Schumer said on Wednesday, adding that the party isn’t “going to waste any time” enacting its agenda.

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