By Bob Cusack - 10/22/11 10:20 AM EDT
A senior Democrat is predicting that his party will retain control of the Senate next year and could win back the House.
Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) said during an interview on C-SPAN’s “Newsmakers” program that “the American people are sick and tired of this do-nothing Congress.”
Harkin said, “[W]e’re doing nothing because the Republicans in the Senate block us at every turn.”
Senate Democrats face a challenging election next year, having to defend 23 seats to the GOP’s 10.
Harkin expressed confidence, however: “I don’t think we’re going to lose the Senate. I really don’t. I think the Democrats will continue to keep the Senate. And quite frankly, with some of the dynamics I see out there, I thinks Democrats could actually retake the House of Representatives.”
Republicans scoffed at Harkin’s prediction.
Brian Walsh, communications director for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said, “Even with the 2012 map and the poll numbers in our favor, Senate Republicans aren’t taking anything for granted. We will keep taking our case to the American people that the way to strengthen the economy and grow jobs starts with lifting the Democrats’ boot off the backs of America’s small businesses, which is one of the things a Senate GOP majority will aim to do.”
Harkin, who was elected to the House in 1974 and the Senate in 1984, has not decided if he will run for reelection when his term expires in 2014.
“I’m thinking about it,” Harkin said, later adding, “I don’t know. I’ll figure that out later on.”
The 71-year-old senator said that he still loves his job, especially legislating.
Harkin, the chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, is focused on passing his bill that would revise the No Child Left Behind law.
Harkin’s bipartisan bill cleared his panel Thursday night, 15-7. He said he hopes the measure hits the Senate floor by Thanksgiving or Christmas.
He also hinted he has reached a deal with a GOP leadership member on how the bill will be handled on the floor.
“Sen. [Lamar] Alexander [R-Tenn.] came up with I thought a very good idea on how we would handle this on the floor,” later calling the idea “quite ingenious.”
He declined to answer additional questions on the issue, saying, “I don’t know I’m at liberty to talk about it right now.”
Alexander, a former Education secretary who sits on the HELP Committee, is leaving his leadership post at the end of this year. Harkin said Alexander has talked to his colleagues in leadership about how to proceed on the education bill.
Harkin’s bill, which is backed by ranking member Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), has attracted criticism from some groups on the left as well as conservatives.
In floor speeches this week, Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Richard Burr (R-N.C.) strongly criticized the bill and the process for moving it.
During his appearance on “Newsmakers,” Harkin said members will be allowed to seek votes on “relevant” amendments on the Senate floor.
C-SPAN’s “Newsmakers” program will air at 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. on Sunday.