Is that what all the fuss over the filibuster was really about? So Democrats could insist on a fair ratio for committee seats? (Sort of makes sense, though, given procedural/organizational votes are the most partisan, and thus where 60 Democrats would matter most.)
But still, I don’t see why giving the Democrats a 58% or 59% share of the committees is such a big deal, since that’s what they have on the Senate floor, and committees should reflect the overall Senate.
By my count, not yet including Senator Clinton’s expected departure but counting Obama/Biden, there are 8 vacant seats on the Democratic side of committees and a whopping 38 on the Republican side. There are at least 9 Democratic freshmen (2 replacing O/B and the 7 newly elected), and just 2 on the Republican side.
Yet, Republicans (according to Roll Call) are only willing to give up a 2-seat margin, compared to the 1-seat gap they have now. Even if that is used to add 1 seat to every committee, we’re still talking like the Democratic freshmen will get very few committees without the senior Democrats giving up some (and even then, we’re talking 2 or 3 committees and no more for each of the freshmen). And a whole bunch of Republican Senators being able to add to their portfolio even after their 2 freshmen get a share of the 38 open slots (if each freshman took 5 committees, 28 out of 39 remaining Republicans could take on an extra committee – each).
Vice versa, if we cut 1 seat from the Republican side, that reduces substantially the number of open slots on the GOP side, but solves none of the problem of giving 9 freshmen the typical 3-5 committee seats when only 8 seats are available on the Democratic side. Indeed, I can’t see where each freshman Democrat would even get 1 committee seat under this scenario.
But this shouldn’t be how an election works; if a party wins substantial number of seats from another, that should mean the losing party gives up committee slots to make way for the number members.
Frankly, it’s not even about being fair to the parties that makes a 2-seat margin problematic. Only a 3-seat margin (add 1 to Dems and take 1 from GOP) would ease the new freshmen into the Senate’s committees (giving us 28 vacancies for 9 freshmen vs. 18 vacancies for 2 on the GOP side). This would also cause little pain for the GOP’s aging crop of Senators (by requiring few of them to take on new committees), and without overburdening the Senate with ever-expanding committees.
Put it this way – does the Republican minority really want to ease the workload of each individual Democratic Senator, while burdening their own caucus members with more committees to watch over? I’m sure an agreement can be worked out so that committee staff aren’t as lopsided, but really, I can’t see why being a stickler on keeping their existing committee seats would help the GOP any.
I won’t waste my time hoping the GOP will come to their senses on committee ratios, but I would at least hope Senator Reid would make this argument to the Republicans, that anything short of a 3-seat margin on committees just means more work for the GOP’s individual members and far less work for our own.