September 29, 2012

In his Sept. 25 Fine Print column, “A day in the dysfunctional life of the Senate,” Walter Pincus stated that no one seems to have a plan to get Congress working again. 

Under the current rules, the minority party has no incentive to compromise, only to obstruct. That is why in 1995, as a member of the then-minority party, I introduced a proposal to reform the filibuster. I believed, as I do now, that filibuster-induced paralysis would only continue to increase unless we broke the cycle. That prediction has come true. In the 1950s, there was an average of one filibuster per Congress. Since Democrats took control of the Senate in 2007, 385 motions to end filibuster have been filed.

In January 2011, I also worked with Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Tom Udall (D-N.M.) on a proposal to reform the filibuster. This proposal received 44 votes, all from Democratic senators. Ending the filibuster will break the deadlock and lead to more responsibility. It will also lead to more compromise in the Senate.

Tom Harkin, Washington

The writer, a Democrat, represents Iowa in the Senate.