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Harkin: GOP Has Changed Culture of Senate

A recent CQ Roll Call Guest Observer (“In Need of Real Debate, Heavy-Handed Rule by Majority Hurts Senate”, Dec. 11) continued the assertion I have heard by congressional Republicans: Democrats are changing the culture of the Senate with proposed rules changes. But it is Republicans that have radically changed the character of government.

The Republican minority has taken an extraordinary tool used sparingly and made it routine. The notion that 60 votes are required to pass any measure is not part of the Constitution and until recently would have been considered ludicrous. When Lyndon B. Johnson was majority leader, he faced one filibuster. In the six years since Harry Reid has been leader, he has had to overcome more than 380 filibusters. The real power grab is not the rules changes being advocated by myself and others but Republican senators who have drastically changed the tradition of the Senate.

The Founding Fathers expressly rejected a supermajority requirement. James Madison himself said of such a requirement that, “it would no longer be the majority that would rule; the power would be transferred to the minority.” That is precisely the power grab that has occurred in the Senate. Like the drafters of the Constitution, I do not fear democracy and neither should my colleagues.

Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, first introduced a measure to change Senate rules in 1995, as a member of the minority party.

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