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.

NEXT: N.H. Prosecution for Forgery That Had Been Aimed at Getting Material Vanished from Google Search Results

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  1. Schumer is a despicable human being. I hope he gets a tumor.

    1. Sincere question: have you ever tried being a good person? Because it seems like you’re not even trying.

    2. You don't need to let your politicis turn you into a nasty human being.

      "I hope Schumer gets turned out of office, and enjoys a long and happy retirement" accomplishes the same thing.

      1. I don't want him to have a happy anything. I want him to suffer. He's a despicable, evil person and I'd love to see a tumor eat away at his spine while he screams in pain for more morphine.

        1. Wanting to see people suffer and be in pain, and consequently cause suffering and pain to the people they are close to, is actually an evil thing to want. You are the very evil you complain about. How do you not get this??? Sadism is evil.

          1. Are you aware what this man and his liberal Jewish compadres are doing to America?

            1. This is where I'd normally say I need a shower, but since I have passed for Jewish on occasion........

            2. Wishing Schumer a tumor--hey, that rhymed-- won't work. He'll just use his Jewish Space Laser to kill the tumor.

              1. I've been sketching designs for a toy Jewish Space Laser. Maybe it will sell.

                1. Does it look like a dreidel? If so, Yes. Of course all that spinning around with that kosher space laser will probably give trumpettes an epileptic seizure.

          2. You should meet my ex wife.

          3. Wanting to see people suffer and be in pain, and consequently cause suffering and pain to the people they are close to, is actually an evil thing to want. You are the very evil you complain about. How do you not get this??? Sadism is evil.


      2. The politics didn't turn him into a nasty human being. He's just a nasty human being. Your approach doesn't accomplish the same thing, since the point is for him to be horrible.

        Fortunately it is very unlikely that he is being sincere, since true sociopaths are rare. He's just another fucking nerd with an internet connection larping as a horrible human being. Those are far more common than actual sociopaths.

        1. I'm not so sure. Events over the last few years have shown us that the Internet seeps into real life a lot more than we think it does.

          1. Is that really the internet seeping into real life, or is it real life seeping into the internet?

          2. I don't know how much you think "we think it does". I think you read a lot of media, which is biased towards tragedy and human misery. The reality is that the internet has been around for decades now, and in that time period violent crime has decreased drastically. Images of a bunch of fat, lazy, mostly affluent Gravy Seals walking around the capitol may make for good theater, but that isn't how the Roman Empire fell. Also, your brain is biased to overemphasize recent events, and to treat them as singular moments. History cautions against that bias. You are not living in the most important or disruptive era in human history. In fact you're probably living in one of the most boring moments in human history. Good news, tomorrow will probably be even more boring.

        2. Fortunately it is very unlikely that he is being sincere, since true sociopaths are rare. He’s just another fucking nerd with an internet connection larping as a horrible human being. Those are far more common than actual sociopaths.

          I agree with this as well.

          I accept Internet anonymity as there are some people who really do need it for legitimate reasons, but there's no doubt that one thing it does is empower all the people whose idea of a good time is to say the most offensive stuff about other people that they are too cowardly to ever say to someone's face.

        3. Agree the larpers probably vastly outnumber the sociopaths. No way to know so I may be wrong but my 2 cents is this guy's the real deal.

    3. Aktenberg, were your parents aware that you had been stillborn?

      1. That’s certainly one way to respond to a shitty, sick comment. But if he’s a piece of garbage who has let politics destroy his humanity, what’s that say about you?

        1. A is either 1. just trolling or 2. actually a bad person

          If 1, such responses just encourage him

          If 2, such responses do nothing

          The need to respond to every comment [such as A. Kirkland's] is counterproductive.

        2. bevis, Aktenberg has been making such posts as long as he's been here, and there's no reason to think he won't continue as long as he stays there. Most of the time no one bothers to respond to her. I do on occasion just to remind her that her comments are outside the bounds of civilized behavior, not that it does any good, but just because I think there's some value in occasionally reminding uncivilized people that they're being uncivilized. But I don't make a habit of it. As for what that says about me, I'll let others be the judge.

          1. The best thing to do with trolls like Aktenberg is to ignore them completely

            1. That's what people said about Trump.

  2. That was mighty big of him. McConnell I mean. He even, like, conceded the election. How amazing is that.

    1. He had some leverage in organizing the Senate and he used it. Just as had been done in previous 50-50 ties.

      Welcome to politics 101.

      1. There's a hidden comparison there you may have missed.

  3. A third the graft, and a tenth the work, it's a good deal from his perspective. But Republicans might have preferred that he work harder at obstructing their agenda, rather than making things work smoothly.

    1. First of all, he will be plenty of obstructionist.

      But second of all, no, obstructionism is really bad. It's nihilist. It's what you do when you want people to die.

      We are in a pandemic, Brett. We need the government to do things. Including to save the lives of Mitch McConnell's constiuents. This is no time to try and turn the US into a libertarian death cult.

      1. No, we don't. That's why we're libertarians.

        1. mulched, if libertarianism were ever to grow up to be a real theory of government, you might have a point. Until it does, it will always be a cult. When libertarianism advocates policies that will kill people, it's a death cult.

          So long as your ideology includes room for demands to prevent government from working, lest government prove successful and popular, libertarians remain nihilist cranks.

          Stick with it, and you can expect the disrespect those positions earn for you.

      2. Obstruction isn't inherently nihilist, unless it's unselective. Sometimes it's the most important thing you can do.

        There are things we agree that we need the government to do, and to some extent we disagree about how to get them done, and you can argue that obstruction in these cases is inappropriate for the minority to engage in.

        But there are also things we disagree about the need to do, even things where one party thinks we need to do what the other party thinks we need to refrain from.

        Sometimes the very goal of one party is an evil the other party is committed to opposing.

        And when that happens, when the majority sets out to do what the minority thinks should not be done, must not be done, if the minority won't obstruct, what good is it?

        1. Sorry, Brett. That BS won't fly. Problem is, libertarians don't do their opposing policy-by-policy. They oppose on principle anything that looks like it promises to make government successful and popular, no matter how constructive the policy. That is nihilistic.

          1. Yes, libertarians are famously opposed to laws against rape, murder, robbery. [/sarc] You exaggerate somewhat, few libertarians are anarchists.

            But I'm not talking about libertarians, just Republicans.

            There are several conspicuous topics of the sort I mentioned, where one party's goal is itself an evil the other party is dedicated to opposing. Gun control. Abortion. Racial discrimination.

            Suppose the Republican party were in the majority at the moment; Would you say the Democratic party shouldn't oppose nation-wide CCW reform? A fetal life amendment? Taking California's Prop 209 national? It would be nihilist of them to do so, after all...

  4. What's he supposed to do when Trump pissed away the Senate majority? The problem is that if he went full obstructionist then Murkowski, Collins, and Romney might peel off and he would have no leverage. You play the hand you are dealt.

  5. Give the libs all the rope they want and deserve. I'm sure they will use it for auto-erotic purposes which will result in an ultimate untimely demise of political power.

    1. "Give the libs all the rope they want "


      De facto 1 vote majority and a 6 vote House majority will not support radical changes. It will wreck them if they try, it always does.

    2. No, they'll use it to destroy the currency and hasten the civil war and cleansing we so desperately need and so richly deserve.

      1. You speak for the half the country that didn't vote, and the quarter which did not vote your way?

        1. I don't see those who vote for Democrats ever as "my people." I see them as vermin.

  6. I'm honestly puzzled why the Senate majorities in both 2001 and 2021 agreed to any kind of power sharing agreement. What is it about the Senate rules that makes it impossible or undesirable to simply put the VP in the chair and recognize the presumptive Majority Leader to offer an organizing resolution and call the question? Is it a matter of the filibuster... but then why doesn't the minority drag its heels whenever the partisan balance changes? Is it that Trent Lott and Chuck Schumer were/are both too wimpy for their jobs?

    Obviously this is a descriptive question and not a normative or partisan question. It applies equally to Trent Lott, Tom Daschle and Dick Cheney on the one hand and Chuck Schumer, Mitch McConnell and Kamala Harris on the other hand.

    1. I’m honestly puzzled why the Senate majorities in both 2001 and 2021 agreed to any kind of power sharing agreement. What is it about the Senate rules that makes it impossible or undesirable to simply put the VP in the chair and recognize the presumptive Majority Leader to offer an organizing resolution and call the question?

      One presumes that one reason is that if there's no agreement, then the VP is ultimately going to have to end up being full-time tiebreaker.

      1. Well, one would assume that she doesn't have to be "heels-up Harris" any longer.

        1. Are you trying to rival Aktenberg for odiousness?

        2. "“heels-up Harris” "

          Why is Doug called the Second Gentleman?

          Because Willie was the first.

          1. Do you honestly think Kamala Harris was a virgin when she dated Willie Brown? Or should have been?

            1. Fact checking a joke?

              1. The joke being that... she dated somebody else before her current husband?

                1. It's a real knee slapper.

      2. It's actually worse than that. Every committee vote would need to be brought to the full senate floor. The VP would then need to act as tie breaker there as well.

      3. Plus there's no guarantee that there won't be occasional votes that individual Democrats will miss due to illness or other obligations, in which case there would be no tie for Harris to break. Or, for that matter, that Democrats will always vote in lockstep.

        1. OK, you've adequately explained why the majority wants a power sharing arrangement, if it can be gotten cheaply. Now do the minority.

    2. Technically, yes, Harris could be the tie-breaker for an organizing resolution that severely disadvantages Republicans.

      Practically, it would be very hard to pull off.

      First, Schumer needs to keep his entire caucus in line in order to use Harris as a tie breaker. Zero margin for error. While a lot of people inside of the Senate don't care about comity, all it takes is one Dem Senator who still cares about it to mess up the plan.

      Second, the longer that the fight drags on, the more that Biden's legislative and nomination priorities get delayed as the GOP still controlled committee chairs. That's an incentive for Democrats to come to the table.

    3. The issue is, a lot of the stuff is done in committees. But with a 50/50 split (The VP doesn't sit in committees), it gets very difficult.

      You'd need to bring every committee vote to the floor for a full vote, and for the VP to vote on it to break any ties. And you'd need to hope your entire caucus stuck together for the full vote. It would massively slow things down and has a lot of risk.

      A traditional power sharing role (like this one) has a lot going for it for both sides.

    4. I think any group of 50 senators can change the rules any time only 49 show up on the other side.

      So if Schumer makes rules the GOP doesn't like, the GOP could change them any time they all decide to stay in Washington and one Democrat goes home.

      So to maintain their majority, all 50 have to be ready for a floor vote 24/7/365.

      1. Absolutely correct!

        Taking temporary control of the floor is just one of the tactics that Republicans could employ to derail the Democratic Party's agenda. A lot of people don't appreciate how weak a 50+1/50 majority truly is because it opens up the Senate to a lot of possible parliamentary maneuvers that would otherwise be impractical to pull off.

    5. Because the VP has a day-job, and can't be sitting in the Senate for 165 days per year. Any day that she isn't there, the Democrats would not have a majority and Republicans could entirely grind the Senate to a halt (or, if one Democratic Senator wasn't able to appear in person, the Republicans would have a pure majority).

      1. VP does not really have a day job.

    6. Some Senate leaders are more cunning than others. But a closer look at the realities is revealing.

      Back in 2001, there were still actual liberal Republicans and actual conservative Democrats, and the leaders had to reckon with that. Remember that Jim Jeffords, a Republican from Vermont, actually did leave the Republicans and caucus with the Democrats that year, flipping the balance over to the Democrats (and that Lincoln Chafee was still a Republican, as well). Trent Lott simply didn't have the votes to do without a power sharing agreement.

      For 2021, there was a showdown over what the resolution would look like- in particular, Mitch McConnell wanted language that would ban eliminating the filibuster. He, of course, did not get that language- I tend to think that the filibuster likely *will* end up changing at some point during this term (even if it's not gotten rid of entirely). He was allowed to back down with dignity, allowing the resolution to pass without the filibuster language, saying that he had reassurances from some D Senators about keeping the filibuster (but note, he never said anything about changing it).

      In turn, Schumer didn't have to nuke, or, uh, carpet bomb- if that's the right metaphor for limiting the filibuster- the filibuster over an organizing resolution, leaving the field much more open for having a showdown over healthcare or Voting/Civil Right or infrastructure or some other bill. That allows him to push his own caucus more, and to accuse Republicans of obstructionism regarding something that could really help the country, vs. accusing Republicans of obstructionism over a bizarre set of rules 95% of Americans don't know anything about.

  7. Its funny how the Dems were having so much trouble in the Congressional elections and there were a shortage of the usual Dem hail Mary of sudden 11th hour vote swings except the big Presidential one. But once the Presidential election was over and 'resources' were free suddenly the Congressional Hail marys started up again and they were winning easily again slate to slate. Really makes you think.

    1. I have read this three times and still have no idea what it is supposed to be about.

      1. I think he’s arguing that the Dems only had the resources to fake votes for Biden in November which meant they couldn’t absolutely guarantee themselves Senate. But, they got a lucky break and had plenty of time to fix the GA runoff.

        1. No, sounds more like he's saying that Trump had some serious coat tails. But coat tails only work when you're on the ballot.

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