Illinois Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin earned some pushback Thursday as leaders from both parties in the evenly-divided chamber continue to negotiate a power-sharing agreement after he claimed Republicans would abuse the filibuster rule if it is allowed to stand.
After years of leading the Senate’s GOP majority, Sen. Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) rival, Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, has now taken over as majority leader because Vice President Kamala Harris holds the tie-breaking vote in the 50-50 chamber.
However, as The Hill reports, because of the even split Democrats cannot simply take full control.
“The first order of business for Schumer and McConnell is to negotiate an organizing resolution to set the ratio of seats on Senate committees and divide committee resources, something likely to be difficult given the relationship between the two men,” the outlet reported Thursday.
“Schumer can’t add new Democratic members to committees without such an agreement, and on some panels Republicans would continue to have more members than Democrats,” the report continued, noting that on the Senate Judiciary Committee following Harris’ departure, there are a dozen Republicans to nine Democrats, a ratio established by the last Congress.
The need for agreement also puts in doubt some Democrats’ desire to get rid of the longstanding filibuster rule, which requires three-fifths — 60 members if the chamber is full — to vote to end debate on pending legislation. While actual votes on bills only require a simple majority to pass, “several procedural steps along the way require a supermajority of 60 votes to end debate on” them, notes a Brookings Institute explainer.
McConnell and Republicans are in favor of keeping the filibuster rule in place, but some Democrats, including Durbin, want to ditch it so they will have an easier time passing President Joe Biden’s legislative priorities.
“NEW: Democrats are shooting down an effort by GOP Leader Mitch McConnell to protect the legislative filibuster as part of a Senate power-sharing deal,” The Hill reporter John Kruzel tweeted.
— John Kruzel (@johnkruzel) January 21, 2021
But because there isn’t a power-sharing agreement in place yet, Republicans still control committees that are currently meeting to confirm Biden’s Cabinet picks.
Buttigieg hearing starts with Republicans chairing the hearing. Sen. Roger Wicker R-MS says because there is no power sharing agreement yet in the 50/50 Senate – he's still the Chairman of the Commerce Committee. pic.twitter.com/eLFCNojBA8
— Jamie Dupree (@jamiedupree) January 21, 2021
And while organizing rules will establishment chairmanships, those, too, are subject to filibusters.
Yes, the majority is in charge on the Senate floor. But an organizing resolution to set out details would be subject to a filibuster. So you can't just put that on the floor, and hope it passes. Plus, there's no deal yet on the power sharing agreement.
— Jamie Dupree (@jamiedupree) January 21, 2021
In an interview with NBC News’ Garrett Haake, Durbin reportedly said that Democrats weren’t going to give in to McConnell and Republicans on the issue.
“Unfortunately we’re not going to give him what he wishes. If you did that then there would just be unbridled use of it,” Durbin reportedly said, according to a tweet from HuffPost correspondent Igor Bobic.
That comment got the Illinois Democrat fact-checked by Matt Whitlock, senior adviser to the National Republican Senatorial Committee and a former spokesman for retired Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah).
“Absurd to hear @SenatorDurbin express concern over ‘unbridled use of the filibuster’ right after a term where his caucus filibustered pandemic relief *multiple times,* police reform, the PPP program, and just about everything they could. With even fewer seats,” Whitlock wrote.
Absurd to hear @SenatorDurbin express concern over “unbridled use of the filibuster” right after a term where his caucus filibustered pandemic relief *multiple times,* police reform, the PPP program, and just about everything they could.
With even fewer seats. https://t.co/0P4Ku5CKBX
— Matt Whitlock (@mattdizwhitlock) January 21, 2021
The Hill notes that a number of Democrats, notably Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.), a state former President Donald Trump easily won, do not want to tank the filibuster. That matters because, in order to change the rule, all 50 members would have to vote in favor of using the “nuclear option” of a simple majority with Harris as the tie-breaker.
Other senators are in favor of adopting a power-sharing arrangement like the one agreed to in 2001, the last time the chamber was evenly split.