The Senate Powersharing Agreement of the 107th Congress (2001-2003): Key Features

The Senate Powersharing Agreement of the
January 11, 2021
107th Congress (2001-2003): Key Features
Elizabeth Rybicki,
The 2000 elections resulted in a Senate composed of 50 Republicans and 50 Democrats.
A historic agreement, worked out by the party floor leaders, in consultation with their
Specialist on Congress and
party colleagues, was presented to the Senate (S.Res. 8) on January 5, 2001, and agreed
the Legislative Process
to the same day. The agreement was expanded by a leadership colloquy on January 8,

2001. It remained in effect until June of 2001, when Senators reached a new agreement

to account for the fact that a Senator had left the Republican Party to become an
Independent who would caucus with the Democratic Party.
This report describes the principal features of this and related agreements which provided for Republican chairs of
al Senate committees after January 20, 2001; equal party representation on al Senate committees; equal division
of committee staffs between the parties; procedures for discharging measures blocked by tie votes in committee; a
restriction on the offering of cloture motions on amendable matters; restrictions on floor amendments offered by
party leaders; eligibility of Senators from both parties to preside over the Senate; and general provisions seeking
to reiterate the equal interest of both parties in the scheduling of Senate chamber business. Also noted is that not
al aspects of Senate practice were affected by the powersharing agreement.
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Background and Opening Day Actions.......................................................................... 1
The Powersharing Agreement: S.Res. 8......................................................................... 1
Supplemental Colloquy, January 8, 2001 ....................................................................... 2
“Filling the Amendment Tree:” Limits on Floor Leaders............................................. 3
Minority Senators as Presiding Officers ................................................................... 3
Party Access to Space in the Capitol ........................................................................ 3

Additional Issues ....................................................................................................... 3
Conclusion ............................................................................................................... 4

Author Information ......................................................................................................... 5

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The Senate Powersharing Agreement of the 107th Congress (2001-2003): Key Features

Background and Opening Day Actions
The November 2000 elections caused the Senate to be tied with 50 Republicans and 50
Democrats. The issue was further complicated by the election of Richard B. Cheney as Vice
President. When the 107th Congress convened on January 3, 2001, the incumbent Vice President,
Albert Gore Jr., presided until Vice President-elect Cheney was sworn in on January 20. Although
a titular Democratic majority existed (with Vice President Gore available to break tie votes) and
could have tried to organize the Senate, any such organization actions could have been revisited
under Republican auspices once Vice President Cheney was in the chair to break ties.
The Senate often negotiates formal and informal agreements to govern the legislative agenda and
its consideration of individual measures. Similar negotiations about the organization of the
Senate began informal y in late November between the Democratic leader, Senator Tom Daschle
(D-SD), and the Republican leader, Senator Trent Lott (R-MS). Talks continued after the Senate
convened, and proposals under consideration by the two leaders were discussed at meetings of the
party conferences.1
Senator Daschle, recognized as majority leader by Vice President Gore who was presiding, made
no attempt to replace the incumbent Senate administrative officers with Democratic nominees. In
an unprecedented step, the Senate agreed to S.Res. 3, electing Senator Robert C. Byrd (D-WV)
President pro tempore upon the adoption of the resolution, and simultaneously electing Senator
Strom Thurmond (R-SC) President pro tempore, to be effective at noon on January 20.
The Senate designated committee chairmen on opening day. As Senate committees are continuing
bodies, Senators serving on panels in the 106th Congress retained their positions and roles when
the 107th Congress convened. Several committee chairmen did not return to the 107th Congress,
however, and, for administrative reasons, it was necessary for the Senate, at a minimum, to
designate acting committee chairs to replace them, pending election of the full committee slates.
The Senate went further in adopting S.Res. 7, naming Democratic committee chairs on al Senate
committees to serve as such through January 20, and naming Republican chairs to assume their
posts at noon that day.
The Powersharing Agreement: S.Res. 8
Two days later, on the afternoon of January 5, 2001, Senator Daschle presented to the Senate
S.Res. 8, a measure to provide the organizational basis for powersharing in the Senate when the
parties were equal y divided. The resolution was agreed to later that day.2 The key provisions of
the resolution were as follows:
 Al Senate committees would have equal numbers of Republicans and
 A full committee chair could discharge a subcommittee from further
consideration of a measure or matter if the subcommittee did not report it
because of a tie vote.

1 Mark Preston and Paul Kane, “Senate Strikes Historic Deal,” Roll Call, vol. 46, Jan. 8, 2001, pp. 1, 15.
2 T he text of the resolution can be found in the Congressional Record, daily edition, vol. 147, Jan. 5, 2001, p. S48.
Comments by Sens. Lott, Daschle and others appear at pp. S29 -31, S32-44.
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The Senate Powersharing Agreement of the 107th Congress (2001-2003): Key Features

 Budgets and office space for al committees were equal y divided, with overal
committee budgets to remain within “historic levels.”3
Discharging a Committee from Consideration of Measures or Matters
 If a measure or nomination was not reported because of a tie vote in committee,
the majority or minority leader (after consultation with committee leaders) could
move to discharge the committee from further consideration of such measure or
 This discharge motion could be debated for four hours, equal y divided and
controlled by the majority and minority leaders. After the expiration (or yielding
back) of time, the Senate would vote on the discharge motion, without any
intervening action, motion, or debate.
 If the committee were discharged by majority vote, the measure or matter would
be placed on the appropriate Senate calendar to await further parliamentary
Agenda Control and Cloture
 No cloture motion could be filed on any amendable item of business during the
first 12 hours in which it was debated. Motions to proceed to consider legislation
are not amendable, so this restriction did not apply to motions to proceed.
 Both party leaders were required “to seek to attain an equal balance of the
interests of the two parties” in scheduling and considering Senate legislative and
executive business.
 The agreement stated that the motion to proceed to any calendar item “shal
continue to be considered the prerogative of the Majority Leader,” although
qualifying such statement with the observation that “Senate Rules do not prohibit
the right of the Democratic Leader, or any other Senator, to move to proceed to
any item.”4
Supplemental Colloquy, January 8, 2001
On January 8, 2001, the provisions of S.Res. 8 were further clarified and other procedures
relating to the powersharing agreement were announced. Senator Harry Reid (D-NV), the
assistant Democratic floor leader, received unanimous consent to enter a printed colloquy
between Senators Daschle and Lott into the Congressional Record, and to direct that “the
permanent (Congressional) Record be corrected to provide for its inclusion with the resolution
when it passed the Senate last Friday.”5 In addition to summarizing the provisions of S.Res. 8, the
colloquy covered several additional issues.

3 Several press stories discussed the challenges associated with implementing the equal staff and space agreement. See,
Paul Kane and Mack Preston, “Shelby Digs in Over Intelligence Battle,” Roll Call, vol. 46, Feb. 8, 2001, p. 3; and
Andrew T aylor, “Senate Organization Settlement Leaves Much to be Worked Out,” CQ Weekly, vol. 59, Jan. 13, 2001,
pp. 127-128.
4 For more information on existing procedures and practices regarding the motion to proceed, see CRS Report
RS21255, Motions to Proceed to Consider Measures in the Sen ate: Who Offers Them ?
5 Sen. Harry Reid, remarks in Senate, Congressional Record, daily edition, vol. 147, Jan. 8, 2001, pp. S53-S54.
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The Senate Powersharing Agreement of the 107th Congress (2001-2003): Key Features

“Filling the Amendment Tree:” Limits on Floor Leaders
In perhaps the most significant announcement, the two leaders pledged to refrain from using
their preferential rights of recognition to “fil the amendment tree” in an effort to block
consideration of controversial issues.6 Senator Lott, on behalf of both leaders, declared the
policy in the written colloquy.
... (I)t is our intention that the Senate have full and vigorous debates in this 107th Congress,
and that the right of all Senators to have their amendments considered will be honored. We
have therefore jointly agreed that neither leader, nor their designees in the absence of the
leader, will offer consecutive amendments to fill the amendment tree so as to deprive either
side of the right to offer an amendment. We both agree that nothing in this resolution or
colloquy limits the majority leader’s right to amend a non-relevant amendment, nor does it
limit the sponsor of that non-relevant amendment from responding with a further
amendment after the majority leader’s amendment or amendments are disposed of.7
Minority Senators as Presiding Officers
The party leaders agreed that minority party Senators would be permitted to serve as presiding
officers of the Senate. This differed from the usual Senate practice under which only majority
party Senators serve as temporary presiding officers.
Party Access to Space in the Capitol
The colloquy further specified that both parties would “have equal access” to common space in
the Capitol complex for purposes of holding meetings, press conferences, and other events. This
supplemented the provisions in S.Res. 8 guaranteeing the minority equal committee office space.
Additional Issues
The agreement embodied in S.Res. 8 was not comprehensive. It did not address many
parliamentary issues. As Senator Lott noted in floor remarks, it covered the issues on which the
party leaders were able to reach agreement. “In instance after instance, Senator Daschle and I
discussed points, argued about points. When we could not come to agreement, we said we would
deal with the rules as they are. So we got it down to what real y matters.”8

6 An amendment tree is the diagram describing the number and type of potential amendments that may be offered to a
pending amendment, depending upon the textual form taken by the pending amendment to a measure. For example, to
an amendment proposing to insert text in a bill, both a second-degree substitute and a second-degree perfecting
amendment could be offered. But, if the perfecting amendment were offered before the substitute, the substitute could
not be offered until the perfecting amendment was disposed of. Under this circumstance, the floor leaders have pledged
not to offer a first -degree amendments to insert text and then immediately to offer their own second-degree amendment
to block other Senators from offering a second-degree substitute. For a fuller description of Senate amendment trees
and rules, see CRS Report 98-853, The Am ending Process in the Senate.
7 Sen. T rent Lott, remarks in the Senate, Congressional Record, daily edition, vol. 147, Jan. 8, 2001, p. S54.
8 Sen. T rent Lott, remarks in the Senate, Congressional Record, daily edition, vol. 147, Jan. 5, 2001, p. S34.
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The Senate Powersharing Agreement of the 107th Congress (2001-2003): Key Features

For example, one issue that was not resolved was conference committee composition. Although
the agreement specified equal party strength on the Senate’s standing, special, and joint
committees, it did not specify equal party strength on conference delegations. Some Senate
Republicans were insistent that a majority of Senate conferees be Republicans, reflecting the tie-
breaking vote of Vice President Cheney available to approve any conference compromise. As one
Republican Senator noted, “I think it’s absolutely our position, and my position, that we have to
control the conferences.”9
In the 107th Congress the only option to arrange for a conference, absent unanimous consent, was
by considering multiple, fully debatable motions. This would include a motion to elect conferees,
which was also amendable. Senator Lott al uded to this possibility in the printed colloquy of
January 8:
With respect to the ratios of members on conferences, we both understand tha t under
previous Senate practices, those ratios are suggested by the majority party and, if not
acceptable by the minority party, their right to amend and debate is in order.... (T)he
intention of this resolution is not to alter that practice and this resolution does not serve to
set into motion any action that would alter that practice in any way.10
The Senate did not name conferees through its traditional mechanisms during the powersharing
period of the 107th Congress. During that time, the Senate agreed to send only two measures to
conference committee, the budget resolution and the reconciliation bil , but it should be noted that
conference procedures on these measures are governed in part by the Budget Act.11 In both of
these cases, a majority of the conferees were Republican.
Since the 107th Congress, it has become common for the House and Senate to resolve their
differences on major legislation through an amendment exchange, rather than through a
conference committee.12 At the start of the 113th Congress (2013-2014), the Senate agreed to a
rules change creating a new, consolidated motion to take the steps necessary to arrange for a
conference committee with the House, and expediting the cloture process on that motion. It
continues to remain common, however, for the House and Senate to resolve their differences
through amendment exchange, instead of a formal conference committee.13
On May 24, 2001, Senator James Jeffords announced his intention to leave the Republican party,
to become an Independent, and to caucus with the Senate Democrats. With Senator Jeffords’s
announcement, the Democrats held a numerical edge in the Senate. On June 5, 2001, Senator
Jeffords met with Senate Democrats at their weekly conference meeting. On June 6, the Senate
convened with the Democrats as the acknowledged Senate majority party.
The powersharing agreement in effect in the Senate from January to June of 2001 was an
experiment. It differed from many established practices of the Senate. The agreement was not
comprehensive, and new issues came before the Senate that had to be resolved by informal
agreements, unanimous consent negotiations, or other means. The success of any Senate

9 Andrew T aylor, “Senate GOP to Share Power,” CQ Weekly, vol. 59, Jan. 6, 2001, p. 22.
10 Sen. T rent Lott, remarks in Senate, Congressional Record, daily edition, vol. 147, Jan. 8, 2001, p. S54.
11 More specifically, Sections 305(c)(2) and 310(e)(1) of the Budget Act preclude extended debate on the motions
necessary to send a measure to conference.
12 For more information, see CRS Report RL34611, Whither the Role of Conference Committees: An Analysis
13 For more information, see CRS Report R41003, Amendments Between the Houses: Procedural Options and Effects.
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The Senate Powersharing Agreement of the 107th Congress (2001-2003): Key Features

organizational settlement depends in part upon its adaptability and that of its members to
changing circumstances.

Author Information

Elizabeth Rybicki, Coordinator

Specialist on Congress and the Legislative Process

This report was written by Paul S. Rundquist, a former specialist at the Congressional Research Service.
Dr. Rundquist has retired, but Elizabeth Rybicki is available to answer questions on the subject.

This document was prepared by the Congressional Research Service (CRS). CRS serves as nonpartisan
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