Tags: Senate | Democrats | Grab | Power

Senate Democrats Grab Power

Wednesday, 30 May 2001 12:00 AM

Last week, Vermont's liberal Sen. Jim Jeffords dramatically bolted the GOP. He will be an independent but will vote with the Democrats on organizing the Senate.

With Democrats set to control the Senate for the first time in more than six years, Republicans repeatedly have said they want some way to move Bush administration nominees out of potentially deadlocked Senate committees and to the Senate floor.

GOP lawmakers are worried about the fate of controversial Bush appointees such as Theodore B. Olson, whose nomination was forced from an evenly split Judiciary Committee onto the Senate floor only under special rules agreed between the two parties for organizing the 50-50 Senate.

Now Republicans say that because Democrats do not have a majority, special arrangements to speed other nominees through the Senate should be devised.

"With a 50-49-1 makeup of the Senate, it is a unique situation, and it is not the same as a 51-49 majority," Ron Bonjean, spokesman for Senate Republican Leader Trent Lott, said Tuesday. "Therefore a number of Republican senators feel a host of issues must be addressed before they would support an organizing resolution."

But Democrats said Wednesday they would reject any mechanism to give Republicans any more control over nominees.

"There is no Senate precedent for that," said Ranit Schmelzer, spokesman for incoming Majority Leader Tom Daschle. Schmelzer said Democrats would stick to the historical precedent set by the 83rd Congress after the 1952 elections, where the resolution organizing the Senate gave the GOP one-seat majorities on all committees and extended no extra parliamentary tools to the minority party.

"That is what we will be proposing," Schmelzer said. "It is in line with Senate precedent."

In 1953, the GOP presided over a Senate with 48 Republicans, 47 Democrats and 1 independent. Republicans had one more senator on each committee when Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower moved into the White House after the 1952 elections.

Alaska and Hawaii weren't states in 1953, so there were only 96 senators.

Republicans did not return repeated calls for comment Wednesday. But some GOP senators have said privately they had little or no hope of putting up much of a fight when Congress returns from the Memorial Day recess next week.

Copyright 2001 by United Press International.

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Last week, Vermont's liberal Sen. Jim Jeffords dramatically bolted the GOP. He will be an independent but will vote with the Democrats on organizing the Senate. With Democrats set to control the Senate for the first time in more than six years, Republicans repeatedly have...
Senate,Democrats,Grab,Power
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2001-00-30
Wednesday, 30 May 2001 12:00 AM
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