Senator Tom Harkin has a “wish list” of legislation he hopes to get through congress and to the president’s desk before he retires.
“Probably more than I’ll ever get done,” Harkin says, “but I’ve always had more on my plate than I could do at one time.”
Harkin is not seeking reelection and his current term will end in early January when his replacement is sworn in. For over a year Harkin has been pressing for a vote in the senate on a bill that would raise the federal minimum wage.
“We’ll have that on the floor again in September,” Harkin says.
Another bill on Harkin’s wish list is called the “Strong Start for America’s Children Act” and it seeks to increase access to early childhood education, particularly for low- and moderate-income families. A bill Harkin helped craft that’s already passed the senate on a 96 to two vote would set new standards for federally-financed child care and after school programs for low income families. Harkin’s hoping the House passes that bill before year’s end or it will die.
Harkin sits on a senate appropriations committee that drafts the budget for the National Institutes of Health and he wants to boost federal spending on biomedical research.
Finally, one of Harkin’s highest priorities as he winds down his poltical career is not federal legislation, but it requires senate action nonetheless. Harkin’s among those pressing for a vote in the senate to ratify an international treaty on the rights of persons with disabilities.
“So that we begin working with other countries around the world to have them expand opportunities and accessibility for people with disabilities,” Harkin says.
Harkin was joined at a July news conference by Republican Senator John McCain and former Kansas Senator Bob Dole to publicly lobby for a senate vote on the United Nations treaty that bans discrimination against people with disabilities. Dole, the former Senate Majority Leader who was the Republican Party’s nominee for president in 1996, appeared on the senate floor in a wheelchair in December of 2012 when senators first voted on the treaty, but 37 Republicans voted no, so it failed. Harkin, a Democrat, was a co-sponsor of the 1994 Americans with Disabilities Act, which served as the model for the U.N. treaty.