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McConnell relents on Senate rules, signals power-sharing deal with Democrats

WASHINGTON - Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Monday night signaled that he would step back from an ultimatum over Senate rules that sparked a partisan showdown that threatened to obstruct President Joe Biden's early legislative agenda. 

McConnell, R-Ky., said in a statement that he was ready to move forward with a power-sharing accord with Democrats on how to operate the evenly divided Senate, defusing potentially explosive clash over the minority's rights to block partisan legislation.

At issue for McConnell was the fate of the filibuster, the Senate rule that acts as a 60-vote supermajority requirement for most legislation. With many Democrats calling for its elimination as their party takes control of the House, Senate and White House, McConnell had sought assurances from the new Senate majority leader, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., that the filibuster would be preserved.

Democrats bristled at the request, demanding that McConnell agree to a power-sharing arrangement that followed the model used during the last 50-50 Senate, in 2001 - which would give the party with the vice presidency and its tie-breaking powers control of the floor agenda.

Without the deal in place, Senate committees were frozen in place from the previous Congress, in which Republicans held a majority. That created the unusual circumstance in which Democrats have control of the floor while GOP chairmen remained in charge of most committees.

McConnell on Monday said he was prepared to move forward on a deal "modeled on that [2001] precedent" after two Democratic senators - Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona - publicly reiterated their previously stated opposition to eliminating the filibuster.

"They agree with President Biden's and my view that no Senate majority should destroy the right of future minorities of both parties to help shape legislation," he said.

McConnell's statement came as Schumer on Monday reiterated his own determination not to bow to the longtime Republican leader's demands.

"He is not majority leader. He is the minority leader, and he is not going to get his way," Schumer said in an MSNBC interview Monday. "We are not going to do what he wants. ... We hope in the next day or two he will come to his senses and take our offer."

Justin Goodman, a spokesman for Schumer, said Democrats were "glad Senator McConnell threw in the towel and gave up on his ridiculous demand."

"We look forward to organizing the Senate under Democratic control and start getting big, bold things done for the American people," he said.

 

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