July 30, 2014

Harkin says deal gives congress “breathing room” to reach long-term budget deal (AUDIO)

Democratic Senator Tom Harkin is celebrating the 11th-hour bipartisan agreement that will give the U.S. government renewed borrowing authority and fully open the federal government.

“This agreement is welcome relief for Iowans and all Americans who cannot bear the brunt of another crisis manufactured by an extreme faction in congress,” Harkin said during a telephone conference call with Iowa reporters.

Harkin expects votes in the Senate and the House by midnight.

“It was announced that if they do that, the House and Senate will be in recess all next week,” Harkin told reporters this afternoon, laughing. “So everybody’s making their plane tickets to get out of here tonight. You can bet your bottom dollar on that one.”

The deal only keeps the government open through mid-January, however, and the new debt limit would likely be reached in early February and Harkin admits there is “no guarantee” there won’t be another stalemate in 2014.

“We absolutely might be here in the same situation January the 15th,” Harkin said, “but at least we got some breathing room.”

Harkin said he’s optimistic “cooler heads” will prevail and negotiations will yield a long-term budget plan by this December.

“I hope that moderate Republicans have learned from this, that their better option is to sit down with Democrats and work out an agreement and not listen to the bomb throwers and that small group of Tea Party people that still basically don’t want to negotiate,” Harkin said.

As for developing a budget plan by mid-December, Democrats like Harkin are pressing for more spending than is allowed under the across-the-board “sequester” cuts in the federal budget. According to Harkin, the next round of sequester cuts will carve too deeply into the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and other critical programs.

“I think more and more people around the country will begin to see what the differences are and what it means and there might be some room for bargaining between the Republicans’ (spending) level and our level,” Harkin said.

Implementing the budget cuts Republicans favor will pitch the economy into a “nosedive,” according to Harkin. Harkin had been scheduled to introduce the president of Iceland at an event in Des Moines tonight that was organized by the Harkin Institute. Harkin hopes to make it to Des Moines by Thursday so he can introduce Iceland’s president at the World Food Prize gathering in Des Moines.

AUDIO of Harkin conference call with Iowa reporters, 30:00