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Parliamentarian: Democrats will control Senate for 17 days in January

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- When the 107th Congress convenes January 3, 2001, Democrats will be the majority party in the Senate for 17 days because Vice President Al Gore will have the tie-breaking vote, in the view of Senate Parliamentarian Bob Dove. That could affect the confirmation process for nominees of President-elect George W. Bush.

The Senate will be divided evenly 50-50 between the Republicans and Democrats. The incumbent vice president is the presiding officer in the Senate and the tie breaker.

"My view is Democrats are the majority party and Senator (Tom) Daschle is the Majority Leader,'' Dove said of the South Dakota Democrat.

This means that Daschle has the right of first recognition on the Senate floor and can then move to make Democrats chairmen of Senate committees, a potentially critical position during the first weeks of the new Congress when Bush's top appointees will be reviewed by the Senate.

That motion is subject to a vote. The majority carries. Gore will be the tie- breaker until January 20 when his term as vice president ends.

Although the confirmation process may be well under way by then, there will be no voting on the nominees until Bush actually takes office.

Committee chairmen for the 17 days that Democrats hold the majority include: Sens. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee; Patrick Leahy of Vermont on Judiciary; Joe Biden of Delaware on Foreign Relations and Joe Lieberman of Connecticut on Governmental Affairs.

Daschle assured Bush Monday during a private meeting that Democrats would not attempt to hold up the Senate review of his appointees.

But Democratic chairmen will control the schedule, chair the hearings, lead the questioning and otherwise will have an impact on the nation's first close look at the top officials of the Bush administration.

The 107th Senate is the first in 120 years to be evenly divided because of an election. But the Senate found itself evenly split in the 83rd Congress during the first two years of the Eisenhower administration because of the death of a senator.

With then-Vice President Richard Nixon as tie breaker, Sen. William Knowland, R-California, became majority leader and then-Sen. Lyndon Baines Johnson, the Texas Democrat, was the minority leader. Two years later, in the election of 1954, Democrats took back control of the Senate and Johnson became majority leader.


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Tuesday, December 19, 2000

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