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McConnell drops filibuster demand, clearing way for Democrats to take full Senate control

After two Democratic senators voiced support for the longstanding filibuster rule, McConnell signaled a willingness to move forward.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., signaled late Monday night that he was open to a power-sharing agreement with Democrats that did not include a written commitment to keeping the filibuster.

After two Democratic senators, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, voiced support for the longstanding rule, McConnell signaled a willingness to move forward.

Democrats, including Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, has said the party is unwilling to promise to maintain the filibuster. That had left the chamber stuck at an impasse without establishing the new majority.

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The Senate is split 50-50 along party lines, with Vice President Kamala Harris, as president of the Senate, giving Democrats narrow control as the tiebreaking vote to push President Joe Biden's legislative priorities.

McConnell had said he wanted Democrats to promise to preserve the 60-vote threshold to pass nearly every piece of legislation — a rule known as the filibuster — in exchange for the transfer of control of the Senate's committees.

In a statement overnight, McConnell said: "Today two Democratic Senators publicly confirmed they will not vote to end the legislative filibuster. They agree with President Biden's and my view that no Senate majority should destroy the right of future minorities of both parties to help shape legislation.

"The legislative filibuster was a key part of the foundation beneath the Senate's last 50-50 power-sharing agreement in 2001. With these assurances, I look forward to moving ahead with a power-sharing agreement modeled on that precedent," he said.

It remains to be seen whether McConnell will follow through, drop his blockade and hand over the gavels of the Senate's powerful panels.

For Democrats, committing to keep the filibuster in place would be a concession that could prevent them from passing much of Biden's agenda, such as a third round of stimulus checks, programs to reduce climate change and immigration reform, among other issues, for the next two years.

All 50 Democratic senators would have to stick together to use the so-called nuclear option to change the threshold to pass legislation from 60 votes to 50.

Democrats claimed victory, however. “We’re glad Senator McConnell threw in the towel and gave up on his ridiculous demand, a spokesperson for Schumer said late Monday.

"We look forward to organizing the Senate under Democratic control and start getting big, bold things done for the American people.”