Legal Alert

Governing With a 50/50 Senate

by Timothy W. Jenkins, Dennis K. Burke, and Brent R. Heberlee
January 8, 2021

Since the results of the Senate races in the Georgia special election became clear this week, we have been fielding questions from clients about how the Senate will organize itself with 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans.

These are not uncharted waters for the Senate. In 2001, a similar situation occurred that led to a “powersharing” agreement between Democrats and Republicans, which covered committee structure and budgets, floor procedure and cloture, and many additional organizational issues. We expect the 2001 agreement to serve as the basis for negotiations between Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, whose roles will be reversed once President-elect Biden takes office on January 20 and Vice President-elect Harris becomes President of the Senate. 

The Congressional Research Service has published a detailed report on the 2001 Powersharing Agreement, which should be illustrative of the issues currently under discussion between the Senate leaders.

If you have questions on this or a related subject, please contact a member of our Government Relations and Public Policy Group.

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This alert is a periodic publication of Ballard Spahr LLP and is intended to notify recipients of new developments in the law. It should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinion on any specific facts or circumstances. The contents are intended for general informational purposes only, and you are urged to consult your own attorney concerning your situation and specific legal questions you have.

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