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Senate organizing resolutions on hold over GOP waiver issue

GOP senators face conference precedent barring Republicans from same state serving on same committee

No. 2 Senate Republican, John Thune of South Dakota, expects an organizing holdup to be resolved this week.
No. 2 Senate Republican, John Thune of South Dakota, expects an organizing holdup to be resolved this week. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Organizing resolutions needed to constitute each party’s membership on Senate committees may still get votes this week, but Republicans first have to resolve an intraparty issue over two senators from the same state trying to serve on the same committee. 

Senate Republican Conference precedent prohibits senators from the same state from serving on a committee together without one getting a waiver.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., told reporters Tuesday that Democrats were ready to formally organize committees but were waiting on Republicans, who “have an elaborate process” they’re working through. 

“I’m told by one Republican this morning that the sticking point is the Judiciary Committee,” Durbin said. “They’re looking for waivers because senators from the same state want to serve on the committee. They love being under my chairmanship, obviously. I’m just kidding. But they are trying to get the waivers to get their spot on the committee and other places.”

Durbin did not name the GOP senators involved. But a source familiar with the issue said newly elected Sen. Eric Schmitt is seeking a waiver to be seated on the Judiciary Committee along with fellow Missouri Republican Sen. Josh Hawley, who served on the panel in the last Congress.

Schmitt’s interest in Judiciary likely stems from his experience serving as Missouri’s attorney general before coming to Congress. His office did not immediately respond to a request for comment, nor did Hawley’s.

With Republicans set to lose their equal split on committees under the new 51-49, Democrat-controlled Senate, there isn’t an available seat for Schmitt to take if he were granted a waiver. Another Republican would have to be willing to step off the panel, which appears unlikely. 

Senate Republican Whip John Thune of South Dakota declined to confirm the exact dynamic at play, but told reporters there is an issue with two senators who want to serve on the same committee and need a waiver. 

Thune said he didn’t want to speak about specifics, but said Republicans were discussing it internally and expected to reach a resolution by Wednesday.

“There is a conversation ongoing about that issue,” Thune said. “We have as a matter of our conference rules in the past issued waivers if no current member is harmed by that. But that’s an internal conversation that we’re having.”

Thune said the waiver matter is “largely” what the holdup on the organizing resolutions is about. 

“We’re gonna work through that tomorrow. But I think we’re very close to having an organizing resolution that will allocate or assign committees,” he said.

Asked if the organizing resolutions could get floor votes this week, he said, “Well hopefully. It would be nice if it could be.”

Niels Lesniewski and Aidan Quigley contributed to this report.  

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