It’s a question many Republicans have been asking themselves ever since Republicans regained control of the chamber in January.
What should the Senate do?
How should it vote?
What’s the difference between the two chambers?
Should the Senate have an open process and a closed chamber?
Should it be the sole chamber for Congress to pass legislation?
Should there be bipartisan hearings on the legislation?
Should there be a budget?
What if the Senate’s rules allow senators to debate legislation and votes, but only if it’s passed by a majority vote of the senators present?
These are the questions facing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and his colleagues as they continue to negotiate with Democrats over how they can change the Senate rules to allow them to hold a vote on bills.
“It’s time for the Senate to move beyond the partisan fight,” McConnell said in a statement Thursday, “and start serving the American people and the American government.”
What if Democrats win in November?
The Senate’s political strategy in the next decade will have significant implications for how it votes, said Peter Brown, a political science professor at the University of Kentucky.
The Senate has been a party in which the Senate is an important tool, he said, and it should move in a way that helps ensure that the Senate serves the people of the country well.
The Democrats control the Senate 52-48, but Republicans are still on the verge of a 50-50 tie, meaning that if they win control of both chambers, they would be able to vote on the president’s nominees to fill vacancies.
A majority of Democrats would vote to confirm them, while a plurality of Republicans would vote against.
That’s the power of a filibuster, which allows a simple majority to pass a bill without a filibuster.
Brown said it’s hard to envision a scenario in which Democrats win control over the Senate and Republicans are unable to block a nomination.
“If the Senate Democrats get control of their party, I don’t think that’s going to happen,” he said.
“They have a majority in the Senate, they have a strong filibuster power, and I don.t think that they are going to allow that filibuster to override the rule of law.”
What the GOP could do, however, is force the Senate into an open session to pass the legislation, which could lead to a majority of Republicans voting against the president.
If Republicans control both chambers of Congress, and Democrats win the presidency, Republicans would have the ability to filibuster a filibuster-proof bill.
In a recent op-ed for Politico, Republican Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri argued that the GOP should use the filibuster to block the confirmation of any of the president ‘s Cabinet nominees because of their perceived conflicts of interest and perceived potential conflicts of national security.
Blunt wrote that the Republican Party is in a “tough spot” because of President Trump’s refusal to hold hearings to determine whether the President has committed perjury in his nomination hearings.
“The President has shown little inclination to hold public hearings on potential conflicts that might lead to potential political conflict,” Blunt wrote.
“But there is a possibility that his nominee might also pose a conflict of interest.
We should hold hearings and then hold hearings, as is constitutionally mandated.”
The Senate is expected to vote Thursday on legislation that would prevent the Senate from holding hearings on executive branch nominees, but Democrats are expected to block it.
If the bill passes, it will be sent to the House for consideration.
The Senate would then have 30 days to take up the legislation before it goes back to the White House to pass or reject the legislation.
In 2018, Democrats successfully blocked the nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions, the Alabama senator who was considered to be the most moderate Republican in the party.
That set the stage for the Republican party to take a different path.
After the Senate blocked the nominee, Republicans pushed for a 60-vote threshold to approve any nominee they wanted.
It became the “nuclear option,” meaning that the President could choose to confirm any nominee he wanted.
The Republican Party has been in a different place than it was before the election.
Democrats had won control of Congress in 2020, and Trump’s approval rating had soared to an unprecedented level, with many Democrats seeing themselves as the party of law and order.
Democrats controlled the Senate at the time, and they had the power to block nominees and confirm them through a filibuster rule change.
But Republicans held a 52-seat majority in Congress at the start of the decade.
In the past, Republicans were willing to take the risk of filibustering nominees, Brown said.
“I don’t know if they’re willing to risk that,” he added.
“What you are seeing now is the Republican approach to leadership is, we’re not going to do it.”