Chambliss’ Win Diminishes Democrats’ Committee Power

Posted December 3, 2008 at 3:45pm

Adding to their disappointment of failing to secure a filibuster-proof majority in the 111th Congress, Senate Democrats have most likely said goodbye to any hope of holding a three-seat majority on committees as well.

Sen. Saxby Chambliss’ (R-Ga.) runoff re-election win on Tuesday helped Senate Republicans assure control of the 41 seats they need to mount a filibuster against the Democratic majority. That means Democrats — even with as many as 59 seats — will be unable to force through an organizing resolution next year that gives them a commanding majority on Senate panels, Democratic aides acknowledged.

Instead, Democrats will likely have to settle for a two-seat majority and a funding ratio that is more on par with the makeup of the Senate. Historically, Senate minorities have only received about one-third of all committee funding, but in recent years, the minority has threatened to filibuster organizing resolutions unless given greater parity.

“Obviously, when you get to the point where we’re at now, which is in excess of 41 [seats], it forces the majority to be much more reasonable in their requests,” one senior Senate GOP aide said.

Negotiations on any organizing resolution will not likely begin in earnest, however, until the Minnesota Senate race recount has been completed. The Democratic challenger, comedian Al Franken, is within a few hundred votes of unseating incumbent Sen. Norm Coleman (R). If Franken pulls out a win, Senate Democrats would have a 59-seat majority in the chamber — one shy of the 60 needed to beat back a GOP filibuster.

Having an organizing resolution in place early in January will be key to the Senate Democrats’ ability to quickly hold confirmation hearings and votes on President-elect Barack Obama’s Cabinet nominees.