WHEN THE VICE PRESIDENT BROKE THE TIE | 2000-11-18
On November 4, in HATE IS ALIVE AND WELL IN NEW YORK SENATE ELECTION, I talked about some Democratic ads. They said that, if Lazio was elected over Hillary Clinton, he would vote for Evil Southerners to be in leadership positions. By contrast, the ads conclude, "Hillary Clinton would represent New York."
The party in the majority in the Senate elects all the committee chairmen and other critical positions. What the ad says is that Lazio would vote for the Jesse Helmses and Trent Lotts from the hated South, whereas Clinton would vote for unspecified people outside the South. This apparently means she represents New York, which is for anything but Southerners.
In the national election, Florida's recounts made the national news, but I think we all noticed that poor little Oregon also just sat there undecided. The Northwest seems to have had a bad year because Washington State had a similar problem. The incumbent Republican Senator up there was also in a race that was too close to call.
And, as in the presidential race, it was the undecided one that made all the difference. If they lost that race, Republicans would split the Senate 50-50 with Democrats. Commentators were saying that, in that case, whoever is elected Vice President would break the tie and determine the majority.
This has actually happened once before in my lifetime. In 1952, liberal Republican Senator Wayne Morse of Oregon got upset with the Republican platform and became an independent. But when the new Senate convened in 1953, he still voted with the Republicans, splitting the Senators down the middle, 48-48. The newly installed vice president, Richard Nixon, broke the tie and gave the majority to the GOP.
But in 1955, exactly the same thing happened AGAIN! There were 48 Democrats, Wayne Morse the independent, and 47 Republicans. This time, Lyndon Johnson persuaded Morse to go to the Democrats and Johnson became Majority Leader, 49-47.
Another vote that decided the majority at the last minute was in 1931, in the House of Representatives. The Republicans won a razor-thin majority, but just enough of them died before Congress convened to give the Democrats a one-vote majority!