- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 9, 2000

Senate Democrats yesterday demanded "power sharing" with Republicans, implicitly threatening to disrupt Senate business if they do not get their way.
Democrats picked up at least three seats in the Senate Tuesday night, bringing their total to 49 of the 100 seats, giving Republicans the narrowest margin of control since 1952. One other race, in Washington state, remains too close to call, giving Democrats the chance to tie the Senate for the first time since 1880.
"For the first time in 120 years, the power is going to be shared in the United States Senate equally between Democrats and Republicans," said Sen. Robert G. Torricelli, New Jersey Democrat and chairman of the committee devoted to electing Senate Democrats.
"This is an American constitutional equivalent of cohabitation, that has been visited upon European parliaments on occasion."
Republicans, however, scoffed at the notion of a coalition government, although they vowed to cooperate with the Democrats.
"We will be in the majority, that is not in doubt," said Sen. Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican and chairman of the committee devoted to electing Republicans to the Senate. "But obviously the closer you get, the more it requires cooperation."
Even if Democrats do manage to tie the Senate, Republicans are assured of some measure of control. If Vice President Al Gore wins, his Democratic running mate Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman would have to resign his Senate seat from Connecticut. Gov. John Rowland of Connecticut, a Republican, will name a Republican to the seat, giving the GOP a 51-49 majority.
If Texas Gov. George W. Bush wins the presidency, his Republican running mate, Richard B. Cheney, would break any ties, giving the GOP an effective 51-50 majority.
The Constitution designates the vice president as president of the Senate, but says he "shall have no vote unless [the senators] be tied."
It's not clear whether the framers of the Constitution intended the vice president to break ties on procedural matters or only on legislation.
Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican, was unavailable for comment, but senior Republican aides said there was no chance that Republicans would cede control of committees or of key procedural votes.
The Democratic statements "looked like a kind of in-your-face thing," said one senior aide, who requested anonymity. "I hope that is not the case."
But Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, said he expects power to be split evenly on committees, giving Democrats a shot at taking over chairmanships, which are elected by committee members themselves.
"Power sharing is a unique concept," Mr. Daschle said. "We recognize and I hope they recognize that the only way that Congress will accomplish anything is through bipartisanship. It simply will not occur in any other way."
Mr. Daschle managed to shut down Senate business repeatedly over the last two years, complaining that Republicans were not including him fairly in the process. He melded the 45 Democratic members into a disciplined team that forced Republicans to bring up issues such as gun control, campaign finance reform, and the president's "Patients' Bill of Rights."
Mr. Daschle suggested he would repeat those tactics if Republicans do not accede to his demands.
"They have very little to show for their record in the 106th Congress; the fact that they did so little in large measure was because they included us so little," Mr. Daschle said. "And so it's important that they realize the error of those ways, recognize now there are even greater opportunities for us to work together, given the numbers, and recognize there is within their reach the opportunity for real accomplishment."
Associate Senate Historian Donald Ritchie said there is little precedent to guide the Senate in the case of such a permanent deadlock. Only once has a vice president voted on a purely procedural matter in 1937 when Vice President John Nance Garner broke a tie on naming the Senate chaplain.
The only other time the parties had exactly the same number of senators was 1880 and Vice President Chester A. Arthur signaled his intention to break ties on procedural questions such as committee chairmanships. In the end, however, he never had to do so since Republicans persuaded a Democratic senator to switch parties.
In 1952, when Republicans enjoyed a 49-48 margin, with one independent senator, Vice President Richard Nixon said he would break any awkward procedural ties that might arise. In that case, Republicans convinced the single independent senator to vote with them on key procedural maters, meaning Mr. Nixon never had to vote.

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