Schumer Says Organizing Resolution Is Done, Democrats Can Finally Take Gavels

In this June 16, 2020 photo, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of N.Y., speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
In this June 16, 2020 photo, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of N.Y., speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
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February 3, 2021 10:00 a.m.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced Wednesday morning that he and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) had finally finished haggling over the organizing resolution, meaning that Democrats will be able to take over committee chairmanships.

He added that the Senate will vote on the resolution today.

“Committees can promptly set up and get to work with Democrats holding the gavels,” Schumer said, adding that he’s “confident our members are ready to hit the ground running on the most important issues facing our country.” 

Negotiations over the resolution were delayed after McConnell declared, just a day into the Biden administration, that he would filibuster its passage unless Democrats promised not to abolish the filibuster — which would strip him, and his Republican minority, of the ability to block any legislation they don’t like.

Schumer, backed by a unified caucus, refused to make such a promise. The standoff dragged on, leaving the Senate in a bizarre limbo where many committees were still chaired by Republicans held over from the last Congress. 

Democrats, even moderates like Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), expressed anger at McConnell’s bald power grab. 

“Chuck has the right to do what he’s doing,” Manchin told reporters at the time. “He has the right to use that to leverage in whatever he wants to do.”

McConnell ultimately stood down, taking statements from Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) expressing their opposition to the filibuster as good enough.

His gambit sucked away time from the Democratic majority though, delaying negotiations and preventing them from taking over the gavels for a few weeks. 

That let some Republicans pull obstructionist moves. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), the outgoing chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, prevented incoming chair Dick Durbin (D-IL) from scheduling a hearing to start Merrick Garland’s confirmation process as attorney general. Durbin wanted to schedule it for February 8, to squeeze it in before the impeachment trial starts on the 9th. Graham objected, saying that a one-day hearing was not enough. 

Durbin gave a floor speech, angry at the obstruction, and told reporters Wednesday that he had other options — none of which he liked — to circumvent Graham’s obstruction. 

Democrats indicated after a Tuesday morning call with Schumer, though, that the finalization of the organizing resolution seemed imminent. After committee assignments were released Tuesday evening, it became clear that a vote was coming soon. 

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