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February 4, 2021

Senate approves organizing resolution

The Senate February 3 approved by unanimous consent an organizing resolution for the 117th Congress modeled after the agreement reached in 2001, the last time there was a 50-50 split.

The agreement provides for equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans on committees, as well as equal budgets and office space, unless the 50-50 ratio changes.

Chairmen of committees are given authority to discharge a subcommittee of any legislation subject to a tie and bring it before the full committee. If legislation is subject to a tie in a full committee, a notice will be printed in the Congressional Record, following which the Majority or Minority Leader may make a motion to discharge the measure, subject to four hours of debate. If the motion to discharge is agreed to, the item may be placed on the Senate calendar.

As is the case currently, a motion to proceed to any measure or Executive Calendar item is the prerogative of the Majority Leader, though the Standing Rules of the Senate do not preclude the Republican leader or another member from moving to proceed to any item. (Recall Senator Schumer, then the Minority Leader, made a motion to proceed, which is generally viewed as a Majority Leader's prerogative, to health care legislation on September 29, 2020.)

In a colloquy, Senator Schumer said, regarding the "filling the amendment tree" practice that essentially shuts the other party out of offering and receiving votes on amendments, that it is his "intention to have active and dynamic debates" and "to increase dramatically the number of member-initiated amendments offered in the 117th Congress." Senator Schumer said he is opposed to limiting amendments by "filling the tree" unless "dilatory measures prevent the Senate from taking action and leave no alternative."

A separate resolution sets committee members and Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) is reportedly set to join the Finance Committee along with, as previously announced, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

The resolution is attached.


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For additional information concerning this Alert, please contact:
Washington Council Ernst & Young
   • Any member of the group, at (202) 293-7474.