Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles (D-36)

Kohl-Welles dethroned from Senate chair position as Majority Coalition Caucus passes

2013's legislative session is shaping up to be pretty interesting, to say the least.

Earlier today, a floor vote approved Medina Democrat Sen. Rodney Tom's proposal for a "Majority Coalition Caucus," which he and fellow conservative Democrat Sen. Tim Sheldon created by joining with Republicans. The caucus effectively shifts the balance of power from Democrats over to Republicans, by creating a narrow 25-24 Republican majority with the two Democrats trading sides. A proposal by the Democrats to create a more bipartisan Senate -- by having all the committees co-chaired by a Democrat and Republican instead of just one or the other -- was rejected.

Instead, Tom's caucus won out, and several committees have now been stacked with Republican chairs, including the powerful Ways and Means committee.

In the 36th District, where Ballard lies, it means Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles has been dethroned from her chairmanship of the Senate Labor, Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee. Republican Janea Holmquist of Moses Lake, who was the ranking Republican of the committee before the new caucus rearrangement, will be taking Kohl-Welles' place as chair.

Now she will be the ranking minority member of the Higher Education Committee, which she has chaired in the past.

She will also continue to serve on the Ways and Means Committee, the Rules Committee and the Law and Justice Committee. This means she'll have a say on the budget and which bills go to the floor, but since she is not chair of any of these committees, she will not have the final say.

Kohl-Welles' had some harsh words for Tom's new, self-proclaimed "bi-partisan" coalition. During the floor action in which the caucus was approved by a one-vote majority (thanks to the help of Tom and Sheldon), Kohl-Welles noted the last time the Senate Rules were changed during a "coup" such as this was in 1906.

"The rules that governed the Senate for more than 100 years were developed carefully and refined over time through genuine bipartisan collaboration," she said. "Republicans today scrapped those rules in favor of a scheme drawn up unilaterally, overnight, and forced on the other half of the body with no regard or respect for the other side of the aisle. This is not a recipe for trust or respect, it’s a road map for confrontation and gridlock."

Kohl-Welles, as other Democrats such as Sen. Ed Murray (who was supposed to be Senate Majority Leader before the coup) have noted, said that Tom and Sheldon betrayed the will of the voters, who elected a Democratic majority within the Senate.

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