Senator Tom Harkin says the U.S. Senate has become the “trash can” where bills go to die and he blames the so-called “filibuster” that lets senators block legislation.
“One does not need to read the abysmal approval ratings of congress to know that Americans are fed up and angry with this broken government,” Harkin says. “…A principle cause of dysfunction here in the senate is the rampant misuse of the filibuster.”
Under current senate rules, a single senator can block progress on a bill unless 60 senators vote to end debate. Harkin calls that “tyranny by the minority” because even if a bill has the required 51 votes to pass the senate, it can die by filibuster.
“The filibuster is not in the Constitution. It was rejected by the founders,” Harkin says. “There’s nothing sacred about requiring 60 votes to end debate.”
Senate Democratic and Republicans leaders have drafted new limits on the use of this delaying tactic, but Harkin says the new limits are mere “baby steps” in the right direction.
“A small group, a handful can still put bills and amendments in the trash can,” Harkin says.
According to Harkin, the filibuster was originally intended to “slow things down,” not to kill legislation.
“Because of the filibuster,” Harkin says, “even when a party has been resoundingly repudiated at the polls that party retains the power to prevent the majority from governing and carrying out the agenda that the public elected it to implement.”
Harkin made his comments late this afternoon during a 67-minute speech in the senate.