The first duty for Vice President-elect Kamala Harris on Wednesday once she’s officially Vice President Harris will be to swear in Alex Padilla, the successor to her Senate seat in California. She could also be swearing in Georgia's new senators, Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, though that's a bit uncertain, depending on when Georgia can finish up certification of the election. (The deadline is Friday, but they're moving faster.) With that, Sen. Chuck Schumer becomes majority leader and Mitch McConnell has more time to cook up plots to stymie the Biden administration and Schumer. Officially, the two have determined a power-sharing agreement based on the precedent set in the 2001 Senate, which also split 50-50.
That agreement is expected to give Schumer and committee chairs the power of setting the schedule. The committee assignments will be split evenly, but Democrats will chair and have the power to set the agenda on committees. Tied committee votes on legislation or on nominations will probably default to the Democrats and advance to the floor, where Harris would be able to break ties. This agreement is roughly what staff has worked out thus far; the leaders are set to meet Tuesday to ink the final organizing resolution that will determine all that. They also need to work out the logistics of the coming impeachment trial of Donald Trump and coordinating that with the urgent votes on President-elect Joe Biden's Cabinet nominees. One old Senate hand, Jim Manley, has heard—presumably from contacts in the leadership team—that the staff negotiations "did not go as smoothly as published reports suggested." So it could be a rather interesting meeting. On the whole, though, procedural experts are saying, "Don't panic."
Adam Jentleson, former deputy chief of staff to Harry Reid and procedure guru tweeted: "it's fine. If Dems control the floor and gavels, and ties in committees advance bills or nominations to the floor, those are the powers that come with majority control." It's inconceivable that Schumer gives that away, and it would go against the 2001 precedent. "The functional reality of the Senate will not be noticeably different under this than it'd be if Democrats had a bigger majority," Jentleson continued. The two leaders, Schumer and McConnell, will hash out the organizing resolution that determines all this. It will require 60 votes to pass and could be subject to filibuster if someone really wants to raise hell—presumably Rand Paul or Ted Cruz.
There are other outstanding questions about things like subpoena power, but those things will be determined by the committees and the power-sharing agreements worked out by them, which can also change as the committee moves along depending on how much the committee chair wants it. At Judiciary in the past couple of years, Sen. Lindsey Graham was happy to ignore committee rules or change them on the fly to shove through Trump nominees.
There will be complications because Republicans are awful, and Mitch McConnell. The even split gives the so-called moderates—Democrat Joe Manchin and Republicans Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins—outsized power. There is, however, always the threat that Democrats will get so frustrated with obstruction that even Manchin will get to the point of nuking the last vestiges of the filibuster. Both Schumer and McConnell are going to be counting on 100% loyalty among their members, and they're going to be counting on 100% attendance to succeed with their agendas, and neither can probably expect it. But as it stands now, the arrangement shaping up between the leaders is standard and not yet anything to get worked up over.