This is how we start the day and end the week. Bipartisan negotiations are quickly stalled by Senate obsession, not the least of which is agreement on how the Senate will be run for the next two years. It sounds simple, but it’s a big deal, and it’s a lot harder to secure than anyone ever thought possible.
The Senate is acting on an organizational decision from the last Congress, when the GOP had a majority. To that end, for example, Republican-led confirmation hearings for President Joe Biden’s office are taking place this week.
Summary: The battle over an organizational resolution, which appeared to be a temporary disagreement Wednesday, has surfaced as an outright legislative crisis that could block the work of committees, cast a shadow over discussions of when to begin impeachment proceedings and limit the early days of Chuck Schumer’s role as majority leader.
Simply put: Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is charged in his new role with trying to influence the Senate as much as possible, and Schumer will have to make some impossible decisions about how to do that.
Democrats don’t want to write anything. As we have stated many times, there are not enough votes to lift the blockade. Democratic moderates like Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kirsten Sinema of Arizona have made it clear that they do not support reducing minority party protections in the near future.
But Democrats stress that it would be unprecedented to say this in public, given that you are at the beginning of your new Senate regime. This threatens to weaken the fortification of Schumer, who will see this decision as a huge concession to push forward anything resembling a progressive agenda. It would also remove a potentially powerful tool from the agenda if Republicans put obstacle after obstacle in the way of Biden’s agenda over the next two years. As a Senate Democratic aide told me: For now, Manchin is not in favor of abolishing the filibuster, but after eight months of obstruction, will he change his mind?
The next few hours will be an important step in examining how Schumer and McConnell work now that their roles have been reversed. In the past, interaction between the two leaders was minimal and was usually limited to negotiations between their staffs and impassioned and contradictory speeches in the Senate. As leader of the majority, McConnell has acted quickly and decisively, consulting his conference, but rarely with the minority.
It’s a unique moment for Schumer to accept that McConnell will bring the full force of his new role, and it tests a new dynamic we haven’t seen between them. While negotiations on organizational resolution remain stalled, discussions about the timing of the impeachment process are now more open. As Manu Raju reported on CNN on Thursday night, the two stories are inextricably linked, and as CNN reports, McConnell’s plan to delay the start of the impeachment process is far more open than McConnell’s suggestion that Democrats maintain filibustering in an organized resolution.
But Democrats will not agree to delay the process without a list of agreements on how to proceed, not just with Biden’s national security candidates, but with his cabinet as a whole. Is this going to work? Who knows, but advisers say one hopes that pushing and pulling multiple, simultaneous, high-stakes negotiations between the two leaders will give both men plenty of areas for negotiation.
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Look, McConnell’s final question on Thursday night has challenged Democrats’ thinking about how to keep this process going. As early as Thursday morning, the House was poised to send the articles as early as Friday, but it is still not clear how Democrats will respond to Mr. McConnell’s proposal. Schumer needs time to understand the seriousness of this offer and whether he can get concessions in other areas to accept worthwhile obstructionism. If Mr. McConnell does not push to speed up the selection process, a rejection is likely, and the process could begin as early as next week. But if Republicans make some concessions in endorsing Biden’s cabinet – which could benefit both parties – the process could be delayed until mid-February.
Remember, this is all a negotiation.
Another reminder: McConnell’s proposal to Democrats says nothing about how the process will unfold once it begins. The whole proposal was a suggestion as to how the investigation procedure should be carried out. That is, Mr. McConnell’s proposal did not anticipate when the process would actually begin (although it normally begins on the day after the property managers’ preliminary objections are filed). In this case, it will be the 14th. February. Nor did the bill promise that this process would go both ways and that other things would happen in the Senate in the morning. She made no promises about when each party would have to present their case or whether they would have witnesses. These are all fundamental unresolved issues, and you can assume that these are important issues that the Sumerian nation may try to settle in these negotiations.
This story and title were updated Friday with additional developments.