Senate Democrats on Monday rejected a power-sharing proposal offered by the Republican-led coalition, instead offering a counterproposal that would install a co-chair from each party on all committees.
Republicans dismissed the idea, saying that having co-chairs on all committees “would be a recipe for gridlock, particularly in areas like education and the operating budget.”
Senate Republicans announced earlier this month they plan to control the chamber with the help of two breakaway Democrats, Sens. Rodney Tom and Tim Sheldon. The group, calling itself the Majority Coalition Caucus, will hold a 25 to 24 vote advantage.
The coalition asked Democrats to accept a power-sharing agreement that would give each party six committee chairs. Under the proposal, Republicans would chair the most powerful committees — including the budget, education and healthcare committees — while Democrats would get natural resources, agriculture, trade, financial institutions, higher education and environment.
Senate Democratic leader Ed Murray rejected that proposal, saying it’s clear the Senate is in a “virtual tie” and the committee structure should reflect that.
“We propose a structure of co-leadership and co-chairs of all committees. We would support Republicans and they would support us in a true bipartisan arrangement with true sharing of power and responsibilities,” Murray said in a statement.
Tom, who would serve as the coalition’s majority leader, and Senate Republican leader Mark Schoesler called on Democrats to cooperate.
“It is our hope that the current majority will cooperate with us to ensure a smooth handoff of leadership and allow the Senate to tackle the many pressing needs of our state from day one of the 2013 session,” Tom and Schoesler said in a joint statement.
Meanwhile, Murray and Tom exchanged letters about the upcoming session in which it is clear the two sides won’t cooperate before session. That means the GOP-led coalition will likely have to change the rules of the Senate if it wants to take control in January.