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Saturday, 6 January, 2001, 02:35 GMT
Senate reaches power-sharing deal
Republican leader Trent Lott and fellow Republican senators
Republican Trent Lott: A fair deal
US senators have agreed a new set of procedures which they hope will avoid gridlock in a Senate evenly split between Democrats and Republicans.

Under the new agreement, both parties will have equal representation on the various committees, and be entitled to equal staff and budgets.


This resolution may haunt me, but it's fair and it allows us to go on with the people's business

Republican leader Trent Lott
The new regulations also include a series of mechanisms to resolve tied votes at different stages.

The plan - which was approved by voice vote - was the result of two weeks of negotiations between the Senate Democratic leader, Tom Daschle, and Republican leader Trent Lott.

The US Congress is for the first time in its history divided 50-50, but Republicans will have the edge once Dick Cheney is sworn in as vice-president on 20 January, as he will have the deciding vote.

'Fair deal'

"This agreement accurately reflects the historic composition of this Senate," said Senator Daschle.

"More importantly, it reflects the political thinking of the people themselves," he added.

Senator Lott, who will become the majority leader when the new administration takes office, described the deal as reasonable.

"This resolution may haunt me, but it's fair and it allows us to go on with the people's business."

Political realism

Many Republicans had resisted the idea of parity in the committees because of the one-seat majority they will have when Mr Cheney takes office. The vice-president does not participate in committee work.

Correspondents say the deal reflects the political reality, because the Democrats now have enough votes to halt Senate work with procedural delays.

Gridlocks will now be resolved according to the following rules:

  • Committee chairmen - who will be Republican - can advance bills stuck in subcommittees

  • Either the majority leader or the minority leader can advance to the floor bills held up by a split committee vote. Until now a tie-vote meant the death of a bill before it reached the floor

  • Once a bill reaches the floor, Republicans will hold the tie-breaking vote thanks to Mr Cheney

The two parties also agreed that if a senator resigns or dies, and the 50-50 ratio changes, the procedures will be altered again.

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