Harkin to try end run around filibuster

Senator Tom Harkin (D-Cummings, Iowa) is joining with Senator Joe Lieberman (I-Connecticut) to sponsor legislation that would change the filibuster rules in the U.S. Senate. 

This is not a new issue for Harkin.  He’s been a long-time critic of the filibuster.  The U.S. Senate’s website describes the filibuster as an “informal term for any attempt to block or delay Senate action on a bill or other matter by debating it at length, by offering numerous procedural motions, or by any other delaying or obstructive actions.”

That same website describes “cloture” — which is a related term — as “the only procedure by which the Senate can vote to place a time limit on consideration of a bill or other matter, and thereby overcome a filibuster. Under the cloture rule (Rule XXII), the Senate may limit consideration of a pending matter to 30 additional hours, but only by vote of three-fifths of the full Senate, normally 60 votes.

The bill Harkin and Lieberman are co-sponsoring would keep that 60-vote margin in force on an initial vote on a potential filibuster.  But they have a declining scale for future votes:

Two days after an initial vote where bill backers fail to get 60 votes to pave the way for a roll call vote on a bill, 57 votes would cut off debate

Two days later, 54 votes would cut off debate

Two days after that, 51 votes would cut off debate

The Huffington Post has obtained a copy of a January 4, 2010 letter Harkin wrote on this subject (that means he wrote the letter before the Massachusetts special election). 

As of 5:24 p.m. today, there had been no reply to Radio Iowa’s email messages to Harkin’s staff asking for more information on this subject.

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.