Senate Democrats hand power to minority GOP in Olympia

Democrats in the State Senate have effectively handed over partial control to minority Republicans. Two Democrats in the Washington state Senate abandoned their caucus Monday, vowing to work with Republicans to control the chamber and push conservative budgeting principles.

Democratic Sens. Rodney Tom of Bellevue and Tim Sheldon of Potlatch have cut a deal to share committee leadership with the GOP.

"The public out there is hungry for us to come together, to work together in a collaborative manner and that's exactly what this coalition is trying to accomplish," said Tom of the bipartisan caucus.

Republicans will chair six committees, including the panel that controls the state budget. Democrats will control another six committees while the parties will co-chair three others when the Legislature convenes Jan. 14.

"This is not about power. This is not about control," said Tom, who will rise to serve as the new majority leader. "This is about governing in a collaborative manner."

Democrats have a small majority in the Senate, controlling 26 of 49 seats. With the moves by Tom and Sheldon, Republicans effectively hold a 25-24 advantage.

Along with sustainable budgets, the lawmakers said they want to promote job growth, reform the education system, and hold state government accountable.

Sen. Ed Murray, the Democratic leader in the chamber, said in a statement that he doesn't believe the Republicans' "take-it-or-leave-it plan" is the right way forward.

"We recognize that any majority in the Senate will be an unstable one, and we are committed to forming a mutually agreed-upon way for Republicans and Democrats to work together," Murray said.

Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler said the new approach is the sort of cooperation the people of Washington and the country want to see.

"I look forward to showing you that the Senate can put politics aside and provide a responsible, bipartisan approach to the coming session," Schoesler said.

"The committee structure put forth by the coalition caucus is a great way to bring more perspective and better geographical representation to the lawmaking process," said Sheldon during an Olympia news conference.

"We'll have great diversification and representation across the state and it also brings compromise and it finds common interest areas that we can all agree on," said Sheldon.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


Tim Haeck, KIRO Radio Reporter
Tim Haeck is a news reporter with KIRO Radio. While Tim is one of our go-to, no-nonsense reporters, he also has a sensationally dry sense of humor and it will surprise some to learn he is a weekend warrior.
Top Stories

  • No Deal
    Buddy's new owner says she fears for her life, but won't return the dog

  • PETA Targets Needle
    After seeing overweight people in the elevator, PETA wants the Space Needle to 'go vegan'

  • Give Us Pryor
    Danny O'Neil says it's Terrelle Pryor whom Seattle really needs to find out about
ATTENTION COMMENTERS: We've changed our comments, but want to keep you in the conversation.
Please login below with your Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or Disqus account. Existing MyNorthwest account holders will need to create a new Disqus account or use one of the social logins provided below. Thank you.
comments powered by Disqus
Sign up for breaking news e-mail alerts from MyNorthwest.com
In the community
Do you know an exceptional citizen who has impacted and inspired others?
KIRO Radio and WSECU would like to recognize six oustanding citizens this year. Nominate them to be recognized and to receive a $2,000 charitable grant.