This is in light of Sen. Manchin (D-WV)'s fairly unambiguous break with the Democratic party, in declaring firm opposition to the BBB bill.


For practical purposes, Manchin was voting as a Republican or a Republican-leaning Independent on many issues. But his formal Democratic affiliation, together with the Vice President's tie-breaking vote, positioned him as the swing vote giving Democrats the agenda-setting Senate Majority Leader position.

This allowed Manchin to extract concessions, such as being chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee, and personal influence over details of legislature even outside of his committee.

This about an increasingly plausible (my opinion) scenario, of a potential power struggle between Manchin and Schumer. This would seem to lead to a showdown, with Manchin tempted to threaten to remove Schumer from his position prior to the end of the 117th Congress (the current 2-year session). For example by switching his party affiliation to Independent or Republican, allowing another Senator to force a vote on Majority Leader, and then opposing or abstaining from the vote, leaving Republicans with the majority.


Is there a procedure in the US Senate whereby a vote on the Majority Leader position can be forced at a time other than the beginning of the 2-year Congressional Session? Something equivalent to a no-confidence vote in parliamentary systems?

  • 1
    I can't find exactly what happened but Trent Lott either resigned or was forced to resign in 2002 over his praise for the racist views of Strom Thurmond; that's the nearest in recent times to a House Majority Leader being kicked out.
    – Stuart F
    Dec 20 '21 at 17:32

No, there is no equivalent of a no-confidence vote on the majority leader, except within parties’ caucuses to replace the majority leader with another senator from the same party.

However, if Manchin were to leave the Democratic caucus and become a Republican or an independent, Senator McConnell would become the majority leader without an explicit vote. There is precedent for this; in June 2001 Senator Jim Jeffords of Vermont left the Republican caucus and became an independent, leaving the party balance at 50-49-1. Consequently, Tom Daschle became the majority leader, taking over from Trent Lott on June 6th.

From the Congressional Record of that day (page 66), we see that no Senate vote took place on this action; the new acting President pro tempore was appointed by the Vice President who subsequently recognised Daschle as the majority leader.

The organizing resolution for the 117th Congress also handles what happens to committee membership and chairs in this situation - Section 2 states:

The committee ratios under section 1 shall remain in effect for the remainder of the 117th Congress, except that if at any time during the 117th Congress either party attains a majority of the whole number of Senators, then each committee ratio shall be adjusted to reflect the ratio of the parties in the Senate, and the provisions of this resolution shall have no further effect, except that the members who were first appointed by the two Leaders to such committees in the 117th Congress, pursuant to the authority in this resolution, shall no longer be members of the committees, and the committee chairmanships shall be held by the party which has attained a majority of the whole number of Senators.

  • Great answer. So looking at the 2001 episode, the VP was Republican, opposite from the current situation. Do you think that would that have any relevance?
    – Pete W
    Dec 20 '21 at 19:20
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    @PeteW The parties are switched, but it’s the same situation - Jeffords was a Republican and became independent, meaning the Republican VP no longer gave the Republicans control. In 2021, Manchin is a Democrat, and if he becomes an independent, would mean that the Democratic VP no longer gives the Democrats control.
    – CDJB
    Dec 20 '21 at 19:24

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