Sen. Tom Harkin: Filibuster rule is ‘inherently unconstitutional’

By Kay Steiger
Wednesday, May 16, 2012 15:21 EDT
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Screen shot of Sen. Tom Harkin on Current's Full Court Press
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Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) took to Bill Press’ Full Court Press on Wednesday to talk about doing away with the storied Senate tradition of the filibuster.

Harkin told Press he first introduced an amendment in 1995 to do away with the filibuster, or the parliamentary procedure that allows the Senate to extend the debate on a given bill, effectively ensuring a vote will be delayed indefinitely. The Senate needs 60 votes just to end debate on a bill to bring it to a vote.

“I hate to say I was prophetic, but I remember saying at the time, ‘The way it’s going it’s going to get worse and worse and worse on this filibuster,’” Harkin said. “Quite frankly I think it’s unconstitutional. I think the filibuster rule in the Senate is inherently unconstitutional.”

“There may be some reasons why you’d want to slow things down,” Harkin said. “We don’t want to be the House of Representatives. I understand that.” Harkin talked about a proposal in which the number of votes needed to end debate would decline as the days pass. “That kind of approach would lend itself to compromise.”

The progressive group Common Cause, several House Democrats and several undocumented immigrants filed a lawsuit this week with the DC circuit court making the case that the filibuster rule is unconstitutional.

Watch the video, posted by Current on May 16.

Kay Steiger
Kay Steiger
Kay Steiger is the managing editor of Raw Story. Her contributions have appeared in The American Prospect, The Atlantic, Campus Progress, The Guardian, In These Times, Jezebel, Religion Dispatches, RH Reality Check, and others. You can follow her on Twitter @kaysteiger.
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