Stevens, Murkowski say they're not worried about split Senate

Posted: Sunday, December 03, 2000

FAIRBANKS -- The prospect of a 50-50 split between Republicans and Democrats in the U.S. Senate has Alaska's senators pondering their roles as committee chairmen.

But both Republicans say they are not worried about their prospects.

Sen. Ted Stevens said Friday he wouldn't object to splitting committee chairmanships and memberships evenly. Current rules state that committee membership should roughly reflect the proportion of the majority and minority in the entire Senate.

''I have no objection to our appropriations committee being evenly divided,'' said Stevens, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Stevens said he and Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.V., the senior minority member on the Appropriations Committee, have always worked well together.

''We've called each other co-chairmen for a long time,'' Stevens said.

Stevens, under the Republican majority's self-imposed term limit rules, has two years left as chairman.

Sen. Frank Murkowski leads the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. He said he thinks it's unlikely he will have to share his chairmanship with Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., the ranking minority member.

Like Stevens, though, he didn't see any immediate problem with doing so.

''I can work with Sen. Bingaman,'' he said.

The two parties disagree over numerous points of policy, but sharing equal committee seats would only rarely turn an issue one way or another, Murkowski said.

Stevens said partisan disagreements usually only arise on the appropriations committee when members are faced with legislative proposals tacked onto spending bills. He hopes to resurrect a rule prohibiting such action, so that may be less of an issue in the future as well, he said.

The Senate also faces the prospect of having a Democratic majority for 17 days when it reconvenes in January. That's because Vice President Al Gore will sit in the Senate and provide a tie-breaking Democratic vote until the inauguration.

Neither Stevens nor Murkowski expects legislative fireworks during that time.

''It's just going to be another 17 days,'' Stevens said. ''I don't expect to be around much, and if we are we'll be voting on appointments from the new administration.



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