Harkin stands by talking filibuster, but might still vote for leaders' deal

Senate leaders Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have been working on a compromise to rule changes that would prohibit filibusters on motions to proceed, address rules for sending bills to conference and reduce the floor time required for nominees once the Senate has voted to end debate on them. The compromise does not include a “talking filibuster,” which would require a lawmaker filibustering a bill to hold the floor and debate in order to delay the vote, but Harkin made it clear that he was not saying he would oppose the leaders' deal.

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Democrats have argued that Republicans have “abused the filibuster” by delaying or killing bills before they are even debated. Harkin said that the requirement to have 60 votes to move onto a bill has allowed the minority to rule the Senate, rather than the elected majority.

“I believe the Senate ought to be a place where we slow things down, but I don’t believe it should be a place where a few senators could kill a bill,” Harkin said. “What a revolutionary idea that the majority should be able to prevail. I guess, I mean I fundamentally believe in a democracy, maybe that’s a failing on my part.”

Harkin pointed out that the Founding Fathers didn’t intend the Senate to be run by a super-majority, otherwise it would have been included in the Constitution.

“The Minority Leader has called filibuster ‘near sacred’ — well, he couldn’t be more wrong,” Harkin said. “It’s not in the Constitution.

“[George] Washington did not say we created the Senate to be a trashcan where everything is killed and just thrown away,” Harkin said. “It was to slow things down and deliberate.”

Harkin said the filibuster has prevented deliberation and “hijacked democracy.” Republicans have argued that the filibuster is critical to protecting the minority party’s rights.

“The filibuster isn’t about minority rights, it’s about obstruction, hijacking democracy and the minority rejecting the American public’s wishes.”

A vote on Reid and McConnell’s rule changes are expected after members have an opportunity to view the proposal. Harkin said he would likely support their effort "because it’s probably better than what we’ve got right now."