- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 6, 2000

It now appears that in January Joseph Lieberman will join his 49 Democratic colleagues in the most evenly divided Senate in more than 100 years. As a consequence, there has already been talk of political power-sharing. Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle has demanded half of the committee seats, arguing that "everything is on the table." Sen. Arlen Specter sharply disagreed, opining, "I think that Republicans are in control by virtue of the vice president's vote if it works out that way, and I believe there should not be a 50-50 split," adding, "The orderly way is to have Republican control and a one-vote advantage in each committee so that you can have a majority." Sen. Larry Craig, chairman of the Republican Policy Committee agreed, saying, "We also recognize that somebody has to run the process and that … we would establish that the chairmen would be Republicans."
Committee chairmanships confer several critical advantages, among them setting the legislative agenda. But compromises are the currency of Congress, and Republicans are likely to pay a butcher's bill to move any legislation forward, especially considering that 41 Democrats in the Senate could filibuster any bill offered. With George W. Bush in the White House, Republican senators will have to run legislation into the teeth of Democratic opposition, regardless of any agreement on power-sharing.
Besides, there is little reason to believe that Democrats would share equitably with Republicans since they have rarely done so in the past. Partisanship reached record levels during the early 1990s, the last time that Democrats controlled the Senate. According to Congressional Quarterly, "67 percent of roll call votes in the Senate followed party lines" in 1993, and Democrats received an average party unity score of 85 percent. Impeachment has seemed to stiffen the resolve of Senate Democrats, since even though most of them agreed that President Clinton was guilty of crimes, they refused to support his impeachment.
There is little hope that it will change this year, since Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle has been a steadfast supporter of Vice President Al Gore in his bid to win the presidency through the courtroom, and little more needs to be said of the co-opting Mr. Lieberman, formerly known as the "Conscience of the Senate." The additions of Sens. Jon Corzine and Hillary Clinton, not to mention the departures of Sens. Robert Kerrey and Patrick Moynihan, are unlikely to make Senate Democrats any more tractable.
Instead of agreeing to power-sharing arrangements of dubious value and doubtful execution, Senate Republicans should utilize their razor-thin majority to push forward legislation that will empower all Americans.

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