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But the top Republican and the Democrat the coalition wants to install as Senate majority leader quickly balked. Somebody has to be in charge, Sens. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, and Rodney Tom, D-Bellevue, said, and they believe they have the votes to make sure it is them. . .
OLYMPIA — The Senate will have two claimants to the title of "majority leader" when the Legislature convenes on Jan. 14
Senate Democratic Leader Ed Murray of Seattle said Republicans will need more than a press conference and a logo on their stationary to be in control of the chamber.
In a letter today to Sen. Rodney Tom of Bellevue, who last week was named majority leader by a coalition of the chamber's 23 Republicans, himself and fellow defecting Democrat Tim Sheldon of Potlatch, Murray says that's not how the system works: "Under the current and past Senate rules, and longstanding past interpretations of those rules, the majority caucus is defined as the party containing the most elected members, which currently remains the Democratic Caucus."
Tom wrote Murray last week, asking him to name chairmen and co-chairmen to certain committees the coalition said it was asking Democrats to control as a sign of bipartisanship. Murray made clear today he wasn't going to do that.
The party with the most members elects the majority leader, and the Democrats picked him. The Democratic Caucus also sent its choice for committee leaders and members to the lieutenant governor, who fills those slots "as presented to him by the majority caucus."
The coalition will have to change the permanent rules of the Senate. Until that happens. . .
OLYMPIA – To hear supporters tell it, a new power-sharing coalition in the state Senate could usher in a Legislative session of compromise and moderation, with a positive response to Rodney King’s famous question: Can’t we all just get along?
Forgive a professional skeptic, but it’s more likely to be best described by the title of a famous 1934 speech by Huey Long: Every man a king.
That’s not to suggest the 23 Republicans and two Democrats who last week announced a “Coalition Majority” will push for the Louisiana populist’s platform of wealth redistribution. Far from it.
Rather, they have set up a scenario where any controversial piece of legislation could be held hostage by any senator at any time. . .
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Sen. Jim Hargrove shows charts that indicate where state government has reduced spending on some social programs.
OLYMPIA — Senate Democrats don't know yet whether they will accept an offer to lead six legislative committees in the coming session, Sen. Jim Hargrove said today.
The Hoquiam Democrat, who is the chamber's longest serving legislator, said they'll meet next week to discuss their options. But Hargrove said the coalition of 23 Republican and two Democrats who formed a coalition majority with a plan to run the Senate is not really offering to share power by letting Democrats run six committees and be co-chairmen of three others.
"It's not a power-sharing offer. It's a structural offer," Hargrove said.
Whether it results in more bipartisan cooperation isn't clear, he added. "Our expectation was that everything was going to have to be bipartisan."
Part of that strategy for Democrats was appointing Hargrove, one of the most conservative Democrats in the Senate to be chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, which is arguably the most powerful committee becaue it handles the budget. But that was last month, when it looked as though they had a 26-23 majority. After Democrats Rodney Tom of Bellevue and Tim Sheldon of Potlach decided to form a new majority with the 23 Republicans, that group named Sen. Andy Hill, R-Redmond, to head that committee.
Democrats will meet next week to discuss possible reassignments.
"That's all up for discussion, but as of this point I think I'm the minority leader (of Ways and Means)" Hargrove said.
Regardless of who is in charge of the committee, it was almost certain to write a budget without a tax increase while looking for options to cut government spending, he said: "It's pretty clear that the public is not interested in any more taxes."
OLYMPIA — Reaction to the announcement of a new coalition to run the Senate is decidedly mixed.
Republicans, not surprisingly, are hailing the decision of two Democrats to join hands with the 23 GOP members and create a brave new world of legislative leadership.
State GOP Chairman Kirby Wilbur described himself as "beyond excited."
"The courage of these two Democrats means that we can expect a no-new taxes budget and education reform with Republicans now chairing both the Ways and Means and K-12 committees," Wilbur said in a press release.
His Democratic counterpart, Dwight Pelz, is, not surprisingly, less thrilled. Sens. Rodney Tom and Tim Sheldon "turned their backs" on their own party to side with "radically right" Republicans, he said. And this after the state Ds gave Tom $25,000 in his last election.
"Sen. Tom has instigated this unprecedented coup and joined with Republicans to install himself as Majority Leader out of a desire to further his own personal ambitions," Pelz said in a prepared statement.
Governor-elect Jay Inslee is staking a "wait and see" attitude on the loss of his party's control of the Senate and won't weigh in on whether Democrats should reject the offer choosing some committee chairmanships and sharing others, spokeswoman Jaime Smith said. Who is in charge of the chamber and the committees is less important than solving problems on the budget and education, she added.
House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan said the plan "certainly has the potential to make reaching a consensus more difficult" but insisted House Democrats have always worked with members from both chambers and both sides of the aisle. (House Republicans would likely take issue with that. ) He also chimed in on the Senate Republicans' theme of not wanting to look like that Congress.
"But we can't allow this Washington to devolve into the bitter drama and endless gridlock we too often see in the other Washington," Sullivan said.
Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, answers a question at the press conference announcing plans for a coalition to run the Senate.
OLYMPIA — If the math holds, Republicans and a pair of Democrats will control the state Senate in 2013.
The 23 Republicans voting as a block with two Democrats mean a 25 vote majority over the remaining 24 Democrats. The 25 are offering the 24 a piece of the action.
The 24 may refuse.
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OLYMPIA — Senate Republicans say they will announce a "coalition" this morning that will run the chamber in the 2013 session.
They've scheduled a 10:30 a.m. press conference with a bipartisan group of senators to announce how the coalition will work.
Technically, Republicans are the minority in the Senate, but practicallly, they may have the upper hand.
A recent recount in a Vancouver area legislative district confirmed that Democrats have 26 seats and Republicans 23. Democrats had already announced their leadership structure, with Ed Murray of Seattle the majority leader, and their chairmanships.
But that majority is on paper. Two of the Democrats, Tim Sheldon of Potlach and Rodney Tom of Bellevue, have said they would vote with Republicans on opening day to form a bipartisan coalition that would determine leadership posts and committee chairmanships.