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.