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Special Event

Daschle Calls for Power Sharing in Split Senate

Aired December 5, 2000 - 12:06 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MINORITY LEADER: Even if we get our first choice, 49 Democratic senators and one Democratic president, there will be more Democrats in the next Senate session. We therefore expect more say on how the Senate is run, and that includes everything from deciding what bills are debated on the floor, what goes into conference reports, to deciding committee chairs and ratios, and assigning committee staff and office space.

We know we face enormous challenges as we build a power-sharing relationship with our Republican colleagues, and we are ready for those challenges. We disagree with the pundits who say that such a closely divided Senate won't produce anything but problems. As we look to the next Congress, we're focused on the opportunities, not the problems.

Whoever our next president is, Democrats want to work with him and with Republicans in Congress to strengthen America's schools, to create an affordable Medicare prescription drug benefit, to pass an affordable tax cut. We look forward to working with the next president and our Republican colleagues to pass a real patients' bill of rights, and, at last, enact the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill.

These proposals all have strong public support. And they have had the support of bipartisan majorities in the last Congress. There is no reason we can't pass them early in the next. We, as Democratic leaders, look forward to getting started.

QUESTION: Senator Daschle, in a 50-50 Senate, if that turns out to be the case, do you envision that committees will be split evenly among Republicans and Democrats?

DASCHLE: Well, we think that certainly committee membership ought to be as reflective of Senate membership as is possible. That has been the historic precedent. I cannot find one exception to that practice in all of Senate history. Clearly, if the Senate is 50-50, then all of past precedent would dictate that the committees be 50-50.

I also believe we ought to examine the possibility of how we might chair these committees. I don't think there is a single solution. It could be that we have co-chairs. It could be that the Democrats chair some and Republicans chair others. It could be that we do what some state legislatures have done and that is rotate committee chairs. But those are the issue that have to be negotiated, and it's why I think it's important that we get started soon.

QUESTION: Senator, come January 3, Vice President Gore will be presiding over the Senate. Does that mean the Senate will organize, for the first two weeks at least, as Democratic?

DASCHLE: It is certainly my expectation that the vice president, who is responsible constitutionally for breaking all ties, would break a tie vote regarding the organization of the Senate. We understand that. That doesn't address, of course, the array of questions that we need to negotiate pertaining to the earlier question.

But clearly it is our expectation that we will have the majority for 17 days.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: ... that you want to have committee chairs?

DASCHLE: Well, it is my expectation that whatever we decide to do in the context of the entire two-year period we will do for that 17-day period. If, for example, we decide that we want to have co- chairs for the balance of the year, we'll have co-chairs for the 17 days. If, of course, we want ultimately to negotiate some arrangement where co-chairs or chairs are stipulated in another fashion, we will do that.

But however we decide, it seems to me appropriate that we follow the same guidance for those 17 days that we will for the balance of the session.

SESNO: Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle, speaking on Capitol Hill, as if to say this presidential wrangling that we have experienced these past four weeks is hardly the only show in town. That with the United States Senate coming back, and presuming that Joe Lieberman is in place, good likelihood in place as a United States senator and not as the vice president, an extraordinarily good likelihood that the United States Senate will be 50/50. It certainly will be 50/50, or so it would seem, for the first three weeks, when they all return.

So the question is: Is there power sharing? Is there gridlock? Or is there cooperation? Stay tuned.

Democrats, some suggesting, should organize the Senate along their own lines for the first three week. You heard Tom Daschle sort of dancing around that, but clearly angling for as much influence as the Democrats can get.

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