Just call Harkin, Grassley the ‘Veto Brothers

NOVEMBER 19TH, 2007 | Harkin for Senate

Iowa’s senators’ bills seem to have Bush vetoes written all over them these days By MARY RAE BRAGG TH staff writer

Sen. Tom Harkin said he’s trying not to take it personally, but he’s beginning to wonder if someone in the White House has it in for Iowa.

“I’ve become the most vetoed senator in Washington,” Harkin told Iowa reporters Wednesday, during his weekly conference call.

And it isn’t just him, the Iowa Democrat said. His Republican counterpart Sen. Chuck Grassley doesn’t seem to be having any better luck either, Harkin said.

Half of the bills vetoed this year by President Bush have been ones Harkin put together, including Health and Human Services appropriations, he said. And the State Children’s Health Insurance Program that both he and Grassley worked for mightily, also got shot down in the Oval Office.

Now, Harkin, the Senate Agriculture Committee chairman, is struggling to get Senate action on the farm bill that came out of the ag committee on a unanimous vote. And if it should get to the White House, the president has already said he’ll veto that, too.

The problem, Harkin said, is that the administration won’t work with congressional leaders or get involved in the conference phase of creating the bills that are sent to Bush. The president says what he wants in the bill and if that’s not there when it comes from Congress, he vetoes it.

“Bush refuses to compromise,” Harkin said.

There’s nothing wrong with the Senate’s open policy on offering amendments, Harkin said, “but with the freedom to do that comes the responsibility not to add extraneous amendments.”

There was a day when Republican Senate leaders like Bob Dole understood the need to control the number of amendments their members offered. Trent Lott understood that, too, Harkin said, but be blames Tennessee Sen. Bill Frist for beginning the extraneous era and said it appears that current Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., doesn’t care either.

An Associated Press story last week said members of both parties appeared to be piling on non-germane riders. Among them were measures to prevent illegal immigrants from getting driver’s licenses, multiple versions of an alternative minimum tax, an attempt to start a debate on the Iraq war, as well as amendments dealing with digital television, the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill, medical malpractice and protecting children from online predators.

Harkin told reporters he won’t be endorsing any Democratic candidate for president. All the candidates are his friends, the senator said, and besides, he’s decided an endorsement “doesn’t mean a hill of beans.”

“If you don’t believe me, you can ask President Dean about it,” Harkin dead-panned, sending the media into snorts and guffaws.

Harkin, of course, was making light of his endorsement of Howard Dean in the 2004 race.

Asked to look at the Republican presidential candidates, Harkin paused only momentarily.

“You gotta keep your eye on (former Arkansas governor) Mike Huckabee,” Harkin said. “I tell you, look out.”

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