Harkin: Filibuster Deal Ensures That Obama's Priorities "Will Not Get Very Far"

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Jan. 24 2013 1:43 PM

Harkin: Filibuster Deal Ensures That Obama's Priorities "Will Not Get Very Far"

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WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 11: Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) speaks during a news conference about preserving Medicaid funding during the 'fiscal cliff' negotiations at the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill December 11, 2012 in Washington, DC.

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin has been backing filibuster reform packages for most of his Senate career. A group of reporters stopped him today on his way into the caucus meeting where the party will be told the virtues of what Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell agreed on. Harkin fluttered open his binder, pulled out the new rules, and read them slowly, grimly. "They're baby, baby steps," he said. He'd wanted the Democrats to go ahead and change the Senate rules with 51 votes, and Reid had forestalled that.

"It's interesting," said Harkin, "that in 2005 -- I have the paper the Republican Policy Committee put out, you should read it -- where they state that using the constitutional option, this not-nuclear option, has been done before. That was the Republicans' position in 2005, right?" He shook his head. "It depends on who's in the majority. That's all it depends on."

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Harkin's been telling progressive radio and TV hosts a story about his pre-election advice to the president. He repeated it outside this meeting. "I said to him," said Harkin, "the night before the election: Look, you get re-elected, if we don't do something significant on filibuster reform, you might as well take a four-year vacation."

Bloomberg's Jim Rowley asked the obvious follow-up: Should Obama go on vacation?

"He can go out and give wonderful speeches, things like that," said Harkin. "But with the House in the hands it's in, and the fact that the Senate, now, you have to have 60 votes to pass anything... well, I daresay that Obama's package, his very aggressive proposals, will not get very far. They'll be so watered down that they won't be recognizable."

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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