WASHINGTON Senate Banking Committee Chairman Phil Gramm criticized the decision by Republican leaders Friday to give Democrats equal representation on all standing committees, which will all be chaired by Republicans, but promised to go along with the plan.
My concern is that we may be very well guaranteeing gridlock, the Texas Republican said on the Senate floor.
However, he did not block the plan, which was approved Friday by unanimous consent, and vowed to do everything in my power to make it work.
If it fails, it will not be because of me, he said.
Democrats had pushed for the split of committee seats to reflect gains they made in the November elections, which created a new Senate with 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans, plus a Republican Vice President, who serves as President of the Senate and breaks any tied votes.
Banking industry lobbyists were surprised by the decision, but said the loss of a Republican majority on Senate Banking only reinforces the difficulty that the Senate as a whole will face legislating.
The bottom line, however, is it reflects the underlying structure of the Senate, said Edward L. Yingling, chief lobbyist for the American Bankers Association. Its the underlying structure of the Senate thats the big thing we have to deal with. Fortunately, we dont have any must-pass legislation because its going to be difficult to move any controversial legislation.
The change in committee ratios will impact the industry mainly on the defensive side of its lobbying game.
Having an equal number of Democrats on the committee probably weakens our hand marginally on privacy issues, and may make things a little more difficult if privacy hawk Sen. Richard C. Shelby votes with the Democrats, said Mr. Yingling, who noted that the chairman still has full capability to block legislation.
On Friday, Senate leaders had not yet decided how many seats each party will hold on the standing committees. Until that is decided, not all committee assignments can be made.