The Volokh Conspiracy

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McConnell and Schumer Agree to Senate Power-Sharing Deal

Senate Democrats will now take (partial) control of the Senate chamber.


The ability to break a 50-50 tie in the Senate is important, but it does not create a true Senate majority, as I explained here.  Consequently, in those rare instances when the Senate has split down the middle, the parties have traditionally entered into a power-sharing arrangement, in which the party that holds the White House (and thus the tie-breaking vote) gets titular control of committees and the body of the whole, but not the full benefits of a true Senate majority.

Senators McConnell and Schumer have disagreed over the precise contours of a potential power-sharing deal, preventing reorganization of the Senate. This has, among other things, slowed the rate at which some committees hold hearings and votes on Biden Administration nominees, as Republican Senators still hold the gavels, as they will until a new organizational resolution is adopted.

Earlier today, Senators Schumer and McConnell reportedly reached a deal that will largely replicate the 2001 power-sharing arrangement. Membership on committees will be equal, but Democrats will be in charge and will have the ability to force nominations and bills to the floor without constantly relying upon Vice President Harris to break the tie. A new organizational resolution embodying the deal should be passed later today.