Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have reached a tentative agreement that would give Democrats a three-seat advantage on most committees during the 111th Congress.
That is a big change from the 110th Congress, when the party held only a 51-49 operating majority in the full Senate and a one-seat edge on most committees.
Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow , head of the Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee, said Democrats negotiated a larger, four-seat advantage on the Appropriations and Armed Services committees. By statute, Democrats will have only a one-seat edge on the Intelligence Committee and a two-seat advantage on the Joint Economic Committee. On all other committees — except the Ethics panel, which always includes three members of each party — there will be three more Democrats than Republicans, Stabenow said.
One of the lingering angles was over whether to consider Al Franken’s victory in Minnesota as part of the ratio negotiations. This morning, leaders reached an agreement that the Democratic caucus would have, in fact, 59 members, which would obviously include Franken being seated.
Congress Matters has a good piece on this, noting that Republicans had threatened to filibuster the organizing resolution unless Democrats agreed to cap their committee advantage at +2. That obviously didn’t happen.
I realize all of this sounds like procedural, inside-pool, but this kind of advantage may prove important over the next couple of years. As Elana Schor explained, “This means that every time an even mildly contentious bill comes up to a vote — or a mildly contentious nominee, for that matter — Democrats can afford to lose one centrist member to the Republicans and still get a win.”