5/31/2005 9:49:47 PM

Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) today delivered a blistering message to the President and Senate Majority Leader on the threat to our democratic system of government by triggering the nuclear option. “That is not healthy for our great country. It is not healthy for our democracy. And I do not believe for one minute that this power-grab reflects the wishes of the American people,” says Harkin.

“Mr. President, the nuclear option is a flagrant abuse of power. The minority party – the Democrats – will resist it vigorously, within the rules of the Senate. We have a responsibility, an oath of office, to defend our constitutional system of checks and balances. We have a responsibility to defend the Senate’s unique function as the last bastion of minority rights – and as the last check on an abusive, out-of-control majority.”

To change the rule regarding unlimited debate, the filibuster, would require a vote of 67 Senators. Currently 60 votes are required to end debate. Rather than seek out the votes necessary to either end debate or change the rule on debate, the nuclear option would disregard the senate’s own rules. “Only one barrier now stands in the way of the Republican Party seizing absolute control of this government, and that is the right of the minority in the Senate to filibuster. By unleashing the nuclear option, the Republican leadership would crush this last remaining check on its power.

“I don’t know why the Majority Leader is doing this. But perhaps what we confront today is an attempt to seize absolute power and unchecked control of all three branches of government. The Republicans already control the Executive branch. A majority of Supreme Court justices were Republican nominees, and that is also true of a majority of judges on our Courts of Appeal and Circuit Courts; indeed, there is a Republican majority on 10 of the 12 Circuit Courts. Republicans have an iron grip on the House of Representatives. And they have a 55-seat majority in the Senate.

“Mr. President, I do not believe that the nuclear option reflects the desires or values of the American people. Americans are extremely wary of one-party dominance and control – this is a prime reason why so many voters split their ballots. In the election last November, the Republicans won the White House with less than 51 percent of the popular vote. The Republicans have a 52 percent majority in the House and a 55 percent majority in the Senate. But they now want to seize 100 percent control of this government, including the 3rd branch—the judicial branch.

Harkin asserts that the nuclear option is an unpresented, radical, and fundamentally un-American move by Senators that call themselves conservative. “America is a great country because playing by the rules, and respecting rules, is a core value. It is a way of life. It is at the heart of our athletics, our business dealings, and our way of government. It is no exaggeration to say that if you destroy the idea of playing by the rules, then you invite distrust, disorder, and the disintegration of the American social fabric. You invite chaos; and chaos invites tyranny.” Harkin says.

“And how ironic that this is being done by Senators who call themselves conservative! The truth is that resort to the nuclear option – breaking the rules, making up new rules convenient to the leadership – is a radical, unprecedented action, with consequences that no one can predict. Because, once you break the rules and start making up new rules as you go along, you sow the seeds of anarchy, of chaos. You create an atmosphere of ‘anything goes’ and ‘the end justifies the means.’

Senator Harkin reaches out to his colleagues on both sides of the aisle regarding this issue “this should not be the responsibility only of minority party. It should be the responsibility of all Senators who respect the rules and traditions of this body. It should be the duty of all Senators who value our democratic principles, our system of checks and balances, and minority rights. The very nature of the Senate as an institution is at stake. This is a time to look beyond party, to look beyond short-term partisan advantage.

“So I have every hope that there will be enough Senators, Democrats and Republicans alike, to disarm this destructive nuclear option. I have every hope that a critical mass of Senators will be true to the rules and traditions of this body – and that we will act to preserve the integrity and independence of this great institution.”