Tags: Democrats | Want | Equal | Role | Senate

Democrats Want Equal Role in Senate

Monday, 13 November 2000 12:00 AM

Senate Minority Leader Thomas Daschle said Monday that Democrats will demand co-chairmanship and equal representation on all Senate committees during the next Congress if they win the Senate seat for Washington state and Texas Gov. George W. Bush wins the White House.

Daschle said Democrats will demand committee representation "as close as possible to the ratio of the Senate." Daschle added that he would use powerful Senate procedures to force Republicans to divvy up responsibility fairly.

"I would hope that they would not force some unfair ratio on the caucus because we would not allow that to happen."

A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott declined to comment on Daschle's warning.

Democrats said Monday that if the Senate is split 50-50, then the committees that conduct the business of the Senate must be split along similar lines. Chairmen on the committees also would share power with "co-chairmen" under an unprecedented agreement.

The battle for control of the Senate hinges on a still-undecided race in the state of Washington.

After Tuesday's elections, Republicans could hold a 51-to-49 majority in the Senate next year. But that figure assumes that incumbent Republican Sen. Slade Gorton beats Democrat challenger Maria Cantwell, which still is not certain.

Votes in Washington still are being counted. Gorton leads Cantwell by about 5,500 votes. But that total does not include about 360,000 uncounted mail-in ballots, according to Washington Secretary of State spokesman David Brine.

But 170,00 of the 360,000 uncounted votes come from heavily Democrat King county, leading Democrats to predict an eventual victory by Cantwell.

"There are still a lot of ballots to be counted," Daschle said. "For us, the good news is that King County has not turned in its final count. We fully expect that it will be very, very close. But our expectation is but that when King County gets in we will have sufficient votes to have Maria Cantwell declared the winner."

Both sides expect a time-consuming recount of the ballots after a winner is declared.

If Cantwell wins, the Senate will be split 50-50 along party lines. But even that number assumes that Connecticut Democrat Sen. Joe Lieberman is serving as elected in the Senate and not serving as vice president along with would-be President Al Gore.

If Gore wins the White House, Lieberman will be forced to abdicate his seat in the Senate. And Republican Gov. John Rowland has said he would appoint a Republican to fill Lieberman's spot.

But Daschle said Monday that if Cantwell wins and if Gore loses his bid for the White House, he will use all of the parliamentary tools at his disposal to force an unprecedented power-sharing agreement on the Republicans.

Technically, even in a 50-50 split, Republicans still control the Senate. The sitting vice president has the authority to break any vote tied in the Senate – including committee assignments. But Daschle indicated Monday that former Defense Secretary Richard Cheney's vote does not count, as far as Daschle is concerned.

"The vice president is not a member of the Senate. We have 100 members," Daschle said.

Under Senate rules, a disgruntled minority can hold up Senate business entirely for an indefinite period of time. Daschle said Monday he would use such rules, if necessary, to make the Republicans split up the Senate. "We could force deliberation on that as long as we have to," Daschle said.

Copyright 2000 by United Press International. All rights reserved.

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Senate Minority Leader Thomas Daschle said Monday that Democrats will demand co-chairmanship and equal representation on all Senate committees during the next Congress if they win the Senate seat for Washington state and Texas Gov. George W. Bush wins the White House. ...
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2000-00-13
Monday, 13 November 2000 12:00 AM
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