Democratic Senate Leader Chuck Schumer may have the title of Senate Majority Leader but at the moment the Republicans still technically have control. That could be problematic for getting Biden’s Cabinet picks through Congress.
It’s confusing but here’s why.
Both Democrats and Republicans have 50 senators elected to the Senate. With Vice President Kamala Harris, who can cast tie-breaking votes, Democrats get to 51 and have the majority.
Even though Harris can break ties in Democrats’ favor, the party can’t take full control of the Senate until a power-sharing agreement is worked out between the two sides. A power-sharing agreement will spell out the number of seats that each caucus will have on Senate committees. Until an agreement is in place, the Senate operates under the rules of the last Congress when the GOP controlled the Senate majority and held the committee chairmanships.
What’s holding up the deal? A power-sharing agreement is under discussion between Schumer and Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell, but the two have hit a snag over McConnell’s demands that Schumer promise to save the filibuster and not move forward with efforts to gut the potent stall tactic on legislation.
McConnell argues that preserving a supermajority vote to pass legislation is a unique and important characteristic of the Senate, which the Founders believed should be a body where compromise between the parties would be needed to balance the strict majority-driven rule of the House of Representatives.
However, Democrats disagree. “Mitch McConnell was fine with getting rid of the filibuster to a United States Supreme Court nominee for a lifetime appointment, but he’s not okay getting rid of the filibuster for unemployment relief for families that are out of work because of COVID-19,” said Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.
Read more about the filibuster rule here.