The Senate late on Wednesday approved a power-sharing deal that lets Democrats control the committees.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) earlier announced that he and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) had finally reached an agreement on a power-sharing resolution in the chamber with an even partisan split of 50–50 with Vice President Kamala Harris able to break ties.
“I am happy to report this morning that the leadership of both parties have finalized the organizing resolution for the Senate. We will pass the resolution through the Senate … which means that committees can promptly set up and get to work, with Democrats holding the gavels,” the New York Democrat said on the floor of the Senate.
Schumer added that he’s “confident our members are ready to hit the ground running on the most important issues facing our country.”
The agreement came after Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.)—still chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee under the organization rules of the last Congress, when the GOP was in the majority—rejected a request from Democrats to schedule a Feb. 8 hearing for President Joe Biden’s attorney general nominee, Merrick Garland, who is expected to receive bipartisan support.
“When the Senate’s focus is required to consider whether to bar a former president from being reelected, other business must stop,” Graham wrote earlier this week. “Proceeding with the confirmation of an attorney general and the impeachment of a former president at the same time would give neither the attention required.”
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the incoming Judiciary Committee chairman, expressed concern about getting a new organizing resolution in place.
“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, Senator Graham, who’s to be succeeded by Senator Grassley, another Republican. It’s a very complicated situation,” Durbin told reporters.
And Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.) said at a Feb. 2 hearing for Tom Vilsack, Biden’s pick to be agriculture secretary, that his “committee has no official chairman at the moment.”
Last month, McConnell had sought to include language that would commit Democrats to preserve the 60-vote filibuster. He dropped the demand after Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) signaled they wouldn’t support such an initiative to pass major left-wing policies.