In a series of statements and letters issued today, state Senator Ed Murray (D-Seattle) rejected the organizational structure proposed by the so-called "Majority Coalition Caucus," while offering a bipartisan power sharing proposal of his own.
"It is clear to us that the Senate is in a virtual tie and that the organizational structure should reflect this," Murray wrote in a prepared statement. "We propose a structure of co-leadership and co-chairs of all committees. We would support Republicans and they would support us in a true bipartisan arrangement with true sharing of power and responsibilities."
The proposal follows an earlier letter (PDF) to Senator Rodney Tom (?-Medina) in which Murray rejects the organizational structure offered by the Republicans, as well as Tom's premature claim to be majority leader.
Murray points out that under current and past Senate rules, the majority caucus is defined as "the party containing the most elected members," which currently is the Democrats, and thus the Democratic Caucus elects the majority leader. In other words, Murray is still the majority leader, at least until the Senate convenes in January.
In my counsel’s interpretation of Senate rules, accomplishing the ends that you and the Republicans seek requires a change in the permanent rules of the Senate to redefine what a majority caucus is, as well as a change to the current governance structure to recognize a new position of Senate leader with as-yet unknown authority, duties and responsibilities. After discussions with Lt. Gov. Owen, it is my understanding that his interpretation of current Senate rules is consistent with this interpretation and, until such time as the Senate rules are changed, that he will continue to recognize the Democratic Caucus as the majority caucus of the Senate. It is also my understanding that he has advised the Republican leadership of this interpretation.
Murray goes on to call out Tom's proposed "bipartisan" committee structure for the sham it is:
I would note that members of our caucus reject the notion that both you and Sen. Sheldon are, under your proposed structure, designated as Democrats for committee membership allocation purposes, even while you intend to organize and caucus with the other 23 elected Republican members of the Senate. For example, we recognize that this would provide the Republicans with an effective 12-7 majority on the Rules Committee, as well as a 3-1 majority on the very important energy committee with Sen. Sheldon as one of the “Democratic” members.
Tom, Sheldon and the Republicans went out of their way to advertise their coup as a "bipartisan" coalition, when in fact it is anything but: It's Tom, Sheldon, and all 23 members of the Republican caucus. But Murray's response puts the lie to this claim, while backing Tom and Sheldon into a corner. Either the "coalition" unilaterally rewrites the Senate rules—an unprecedented exercise fraught with all kinds of unexpected consequences—or Tom and Sheldon officially become Republicans by joining their caucus. Either way the veneer of bipartisanship is stripped away.
Or, of course, if they're really more interested in bipartisanship than just a crass power grab, they could always accept Murray's power sharing proposal. But I wouldn't count on it.