January 22, 2021

Organizing the Senate

Marty Paone

While the process of organizing the Senate’s committees at the beginning of each Congress entails a bit of work for the two Leaders and their staff, it is usually accomplished in prompt order – even in times of a 50/50 Senate.

Senator McConnell, however, is using a unique strategy, pushing this vital process further and further back. He has thus far held up negotiations until Senator Schumer commits to not using the nuclear option to put legislative cloture on an equal footing as that for nominations. It is worth noting that Senator Schumer did not make any such demands in 2017 and 2019 when the Senate organized – Senator McConnell went on to use the nuclear option to alter cloture during both of those Congresses.

Ironically, while Schumer did not have unanimous support for his desired cloture reform, which he’d need if he wanted to act, McConnell’s decision to take this tack has united all the Democrats in opposition to his action.

Once the Senate is organized and the Committees are fully manned, I would expect an equal number of senators from each party to be assigned to them and a motion to discharge items that lose on a tie vote will be guaranteed a vote on the Senate floor just as in the 2001 agreement.

The expected chair and ranking member line-up is as follows: