Schumer, McConnell reach deal on Senate organizing resolution


Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have reached a deal on the organizing resolution for running a 50-50 Senate.

"I am happy to report ... that the leadership of both parties have finalized the organizing resolution for the Senate," Schumer announced 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," Schumer added.

The deal is expected to largely mirror a 2001 agreement, the last time the Senate was evenly split, when bills and nominations were sent to the floor even when there were tie votes at the committee level.

The new agreement comes after the Senate has been stuck in a weird limbo status since Jan. 20, the day Democrats took over the chamber's majority.

Though Democrats have controlled the floor, Republicans still wielded power in Senate committees because the chamber hadn't passed a new organizing resolution for the 117th Congress.

That resulted in some awkward dynamics over the past two weeks, including Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the incoming Judiciary Committee chairman, publicly asking Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who was still chairman because the Senate was functioning under last year's organizing resolution, to hold a hearing for Merrick Garland, President Biden's attorney general nominee. Graham denied that request, blaming the upcoming impeachment trial of former President Trump.

"They could set the hearing and, unfortunately, I'm not officially the chairman of the committee. You know, we are in the majority because of the vote with the vice president, so I had to contact the chairman from the previous Congress, Sen. Graham, who's to be succeeded by Sen. [Chuck] Grassley, another Republican. It's a very complicated situation," Durbin told reporters.

Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.) said at a Tuesday hearing for Tom Vilsack, Biden's pick to be Agriculture secretary, that "the committee has no official chairman at the moment."

"This hearing is a little bit different," Boozman said.

Senators had speculated since late last week that Schumer and McConnell were close to an agreement, but a final deal remained elusive amongst last-minute hang ups.

"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 Tuesday when asked about the organizing resolution.

The power-sharing deal was thrown into limbo for days after McConnell demanded that the resolution include protections against nixing the 60-vote legislative filibuster, as progressive activists and a growing number of senators support going "nuclear."

That effort by McConnell frustrated Democrats, who viewed it as an attempt to box them in and believed that the GOP leader wouldn't have agreed to the same restriction if he was still in the majority.

McConnell ultimately dropped his insistence on a formal agreement after two Democratic senators — Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) — both reiterated that they oppose going nixing the legislative filibuster.

"The senior senator from Arizona made the same commitment. She opposes ending the legislative filibuster. ... Our colleague informed me directly last night that under no circumstances would she reverse course," McConnell said last week.

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