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The U.S. Senate is politically split with 50 Republicans and 50 Democrats, but leaders of the two parties agreed Wednesday that Democrats will hold the majority of the seats on each of the chamber’s issue-related committees where legislation is first drafted.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer announced the agreement with Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell and said the chamber’s organizing resolution would be approved later in the day.
If they vote as a 50-member bloc, Democrats control the Senate because of the tie-breaking vote from Democratic Vice President Kamala Harris, who presides over the chamber.
Schumer and McConnell negotiated for a month over the legislative rules for the next two years before McConnell agreed to Schumer’s demand for control.
With Democrats holding the majority of seats on each of the Senate’s 20 standing committees, it could possibly be easier for new President Joe Biden to advance his legislative priorities. But even then, lawmakers sometimes do not agree with the stances adopted by presidents of their own party.
In the 100-member Senate, members of the minority party – now Republicans for the next two years -- often object to legislation proposed by a president of the opposite party, now the Democrat Biden, who took office two weeks ago.
In debate before the full Senate, some minority party lawmakers often filibuster against legislation they don’t favor, forcing at least 60 senators, some from both parties, to join to vote to break the filibuster and then vote on the legislation itself.