Senate Organization and the 2000 Precedent
Jonathan Singer argues that Senate Democrats should fight off any attempts by Republicans to rely on the Daschle-Lott precedent of 2000 agreeing to a change in leadership should the other side gain a majority during the next two years. His argument is that, in 2000, there was a Democratic vice president (Al Gore) at the time of organization who could have broken the electorate-generated 50-50 tie in the Senate and technically made Daschle Majority Leader and allowed Democrats to appoint committee chairs. This time, the electorate gave the Democrats a pure majority.
I agree that circumstances are different here, although the fact that a vice president just defeated for elevation to the presidency and a few days from being out of office altogether strikes me as a rather lame justification. That the Democrats now have a majority whereas the Republicans had a tie then, though, is a fair point.
On the other hand, the bizarre circumstances of 1954 notwithstanding, there’s no way either party nowadays would stand for being relegated to minority status if it had the numbers to govern. As Singer notes, regardless of what the organizing resolution said, the Democrats would have shut down the Senate had their ill-gotten “majority” of 2001 not been recognized. Similarly, the Republicans would not abide a Majority Leader Reid if replacement or defection gave them a working majority.
Regardless, I take Trent Lott at his word when he says, “My expectation and hope is that Tim [Johnson] will recover fully and come back and we’ll go to work. You know, I’d like to be in the majority, but I don’t want to do it that way.” Ditto a Joe Lieberman defection.