The top two Senate leaders are nearing a power-sharing agreement to hash out how the evenly divided chamber will operate, with Democrats in charge of setting the schedule but both parties likely to hold an equal number of seats on Senate committees, according to sources familiar with the talks.
The negotiations between Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and Republican Leader Mitch McConnell have been built largely around how the Senate operated the last time the body was split 50-50: When George W. Bush initially became president in 2001. Final details are still being sorted out between the two leaders, sources said, and the two are expected to meet on Tuesday to discuss these issues.
Similar to those rules, set in January 2001, Schumer and McConnell aides are discussing allowing bills and nominations to advance to the Senate floor even if they are tied during committee votes, something that could become common given that each party is expected to have the same number of seats on committees.
Democrats will hold the chairmanships of the committees, giving them power to set the agenda, and Schumer will be granted the title of majority leader since Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will cast tiebreaking votes on the floor.
The full chamber still has to ratify these procedures, but that is expected to occur once Schumer and McConnell have finalized their agreement.
Democrats are still waiting for the seating of the two new Georgia Democrats – Sens.-elect Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff – who won their runoff races this month. Georgia election officials had expected the certification process to be completed by Tuesday, and if it is, it’s possible the two senators could take their oaths and be sworn in that day, according to Democratic sources.
Harris resigned her Senate seat on Monday, and will soon be replaced by Democrat Alex Padilla. It’s still uncertain when Padilla will be sworn into office.
Once Harris gets sworn in as vice president and the final three Democrats take their Senate seats, their caucus will be in charge of a 50-50 Senate with Harris breaking ties.