Governing With a 50/50 Senate

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Since the results of the Senate races in the Georgia special election became clear this week, we have been fielding questions from clients about how the Senate will organize itself with 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans.

These are not uncharted waters for the Senate. In 2001, a similar situation occurred that led to a “powersharing” agreement between Democrats and Republicans, which covered committee structure and budgets, floor procedure and cloture, and many additional organizational issues. We expect the 2001 agreement to serve as the basis for negotiations between Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, whose roles will be reversed once President-elect Biden takes office on January 20 and Vice President-elect Harris becomes President of the Senate. 

The Congressional Research Service has published a detailed report on the 2001 Powersharing Agreement, which should be illustrative of the issues currently under discussion between the Senate leaders.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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