State Republicans give Senate president position to a Democrat to protect majority

Minnesota went through a similar situation two years ago and Republicans lost their majority.

Sen. David Tomassoni (Minnesota Senate Media/YouTube)

Republicans have voted to transfer the Senate president’s role from one of their own to a Democrat in order to protect their Senate majority and avoid a special election in the upcoming year.

In a move to keep their one-vote majority, Senate Republicans voted to take the role from Sen. Jeremy Miller, R-Winona, and give it to Sen. David Tomassoni, DFL-Chisholm. The Democrat-supported vote came in response to rumors of President-elect Joe Biden planning to recruit U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar for his cabinet, which would cause a chain of unfortunate events for Republicans.

“Hopefully this is the beginning of working across the aisle and coming up with bipartisan solutions as we have just gone through a tough election cycle and we need to bring people together rather than form battle lines,” Tomassoni said during Thursday’s special session after being appointed. 

“It’s the first time since the advent of partisan politics in the Legislature that there’s a president from a minority party,” he added. 

The 63-4 vote was backed by both party’s leaders, and Sen. Miller himself, who had been the youngest Senate president in the modern era. Miller later hinted on Twitter that he would reprise his role.

If U.S. Sen. Klobuchar were to join Biden’s cabinet in January, and Republicans had not acted, they could have lost the majority. Klobuchar’s U.S. Senate seat could be filled by Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, whose position would then be filled by the Senate president. Miller then could have been required to resign his Senate seat, prompting a special election in his district. 

Minnesota went through a similar situation two years ago and Republicans lost their majority.

In 2018, former U.S. Sen. Al Franken resigned, prompting then-Lt. Gov. Tina Smith to take his place, which led to former Senate President Michelle Fischbach taking Smith’s role. Fischbach said she could hold both positions, which resulted in a legal battle and eventually her resignation as senator.