Senate Republican leader McConnell offers support for power-sharing deal with Democrats

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In this image from video, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., speaks as the Senate reconvenes after protesters stormed into the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021. (Senate Television via AP)

WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — Mitch McConnell, the U.S. Senate Republican leader, in a statement on Monday said he would support a power-sharing agreement with Democrats after days of impasse held up the basic organization and daily work of the 50-50 chamber.

Democrat Chuck Schumer, now the majority leader thanks to Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote, and McConnell had been at odds over the Republican’s demand that Democrats promise to protect the filibuster, which requires a 60-vote supermajority to advance most legislation.

Schumer has refused to guarantee the filibuster would stay. But in a statement, McConnell cited comments from moderate Democratic Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, who said they would not favor eliminating the filibuster.

“The legislative filibuster was a key part of the foundation beneath the Senate’s last 50-50 power-sharing agreement in 2001,” McConnell said. “With these assurances, I look forward to moving ahead with a power-sharing agreement modeled on that precedent.”

A spokesman for Schumer, Justin Goodman, said in a statement, “We’re glad Senator McConnell threw in the towel and gave up on his ridiculous demand. We look forward to organizing the Senate under Democratic control and start getting big, bold things done for the American people.”

Some liberal Democrats have suggested killing the filibuster to help advance President Joe Biden’s agenda, though Biden has not signaled support for such a move. In recent years, the 60-vote threshold has brought the Senate nearly to a halt on major legislation.

With Harris unable to attend every Senate session, the two party leaders have been discussing an arrangement to govern day-to-day operations, similar to one struck the last time the Senate was equally split two decades ago.

Recognizing that the vice president could not be a constant presence in the chamber, the 2001 agreement split committee memberships evenly and mandated that both leaders seek to attain an equal balance of the two parties’ interests when scheduling and debating legislative and executive business.

A tax-cut package was passed then, using reconciliation with then-Vice President Dick Cheney, a Republican, serving as the deciding vote.

Senate committees have still not been reorganized under Democratic control.

Democrats could unilaterally change the rules to require only a simple majority to approve bills, a move sometimes called the “nuclear option,” if all 50 members voted together and Harris provided the tie-breaking vote.

By declining to guarantee as part of the deal that the filibuster will be protected, Schumer preserves the threat as leverage in negotiations over Biden’s priorities, such as a new round of coronavirus relief. 

Reuters contributed to this report; Reporting by Joseph Ax, Mohammad Zargham and Susan Cornwell

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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