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Two Democrats in the Washington state Senate abandoned their caucus Monday, vowing to work with Republicans to control the chamber and push conservative budgeting principles.
Democratic Sens. Rodney Tom of Bellevue and Tim Sheldon of Potlatch said the bipartisan cooperation would drive better policies. Under the new plan, Republicans will chair six committees, including the panel that controls the state budget. Democrats will control another six committees while
the parties will co-chair three others.
"It is time we put aside party dynamics and focus instead on the needs of all Washingtonians," Tom said in a statement.
Democrats have a small majority in the Senate, controlling 26 of 49 seats. With the moves by Tom and Sheldon, Republicans effectively hold a 25-24 advantage.
Tom would serve as the majority leader under the new coalition. Along with sustainable budgets, the lawmakers said they want to promote job growth, reform the education system, and hold state government accountable.
Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler said the new approach in the chamber is the sort of cooperation that the people of Washington and the country want to see.
"I look forward to showing that in the Senate we can put policy ahead of politics and govern in a responsible and bipartisan way," Schoesler said.
Democrats comfortably control the state House. The new legislative session begins in January.
One Republican committee chairs is Sen. Pam Roach, who was kicked out of her caucus two years ago because of accusations of mistreating staff. She was allowed back in this year during the Republican budget coup last year, but she is still barred from interacting with Senate staff.
It wasn't immediately clear how that Government Operations committee would function without Roach being able to work with staff.
Mike Hoover, a senior Republican attorney for the Senate, had sued the chamber earlier this year and said he was subjected to a hostile and abusive workplace because of Roach.
Under a settlement announced in September, the Senate reaffirmed its sanctions against Roach.
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