Senator Says Politics Have Reached Civil War Levels

.photo.left{display:none;}Sen. Tom Harkin to Congress: “We are at one of the most dangerous points in our history.”

Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa. talks about the fiscal cliff with reporters, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, Dec. 28, 2012.
National Journal
Matt Berman
See more stories about...
Matt Berman
Sept. 27, 2013, 6:43 a.m.

{{ BIZOBJ (video: 4472) }}

As the clock ticks down to­ward a pos­sible gov­ern­ment shut­down, Sen. Tom Har­kin, D-Iowa, isn’t hold­ing back.

On the Sen­ate floor be­fore 10 a.m. Fri­day, the sen­at­or gave a speech de­scrib­ing how Amer­ic­an polit­ics have reached the level at which “a small group of will­ful men and wo­men who have a cer­tain ideo­logy” — read: the tea party and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas — have been able to take over the con­gres­sion­al budget de­bate in the last week. “Since they can’t get their way,” Har­kin said, “they’re go­ing to cre­ate this con­fu­sion and dis­course and hope that the pub­lic will be so mixed up in who is to blame for this, that they’ll blame both sides.”

This isn’t just con­gres­sion­al busi­ness as usu­al, Har­kin said. It’s much, much more dire:

It’s dan­ger­ous. It’s very dan­ger­ous. I be­lieve, Mr. Pres­id­ent, we are at one of the most dan­ger­ous points in our his­tory right now. Every bit as dan­ger­ous as the break-up of the Uni­on be­fore the Civil War.

This isn’t the first time the sen­at­or has spoken out about the spiral­ing budget and the fight over Obama­care. Har­kin sug­ges­ted Thursday that Cruz looked “fool­ish” for his “little tirade” that las­ted from Tues­day af­ter­noon un­til Wed­nes­day morn­ing. Har­kin called out Cruz as be­ing part of “the most ex­treme tea-party wing” of his party, and for his “ideo­logy-driv­en ob­struc­tion­ism.”

Of course, it’d be a stretch to think that the United States is on the cusp of any­thing as vi­ol­ent as the Civil War. But the con­sequences of a gov­ern­ment shut­down or top­ping over the debt ceil­ing could be massively harm­ful for the U.S. eco­nomy, wheth­er you’re look­ing at the pos­sib­il­ity of a down­grade in U.S. cred­it or just the shut­down in pay­ments and ser­vices with thou­sands of gov­ern­ment em­ploy­ees out of work.

Har­kin isn’t the first to pull out a dra­mat­ic his­tor­ic­al ana­logy on the Sen­ate floor this week, either. Dur­ing his 21-plus hour speech, Cruz hearkened back to Nazi Ger­many for a com­par­is­on to “pun­dits” who think Obama­care can­not be de­feated:

If we go to the 1940s, Nazi Ger­many — look, we saw it in Bri­tain. Neville Cham­ber­lain told the Brit­ish people: Ac­cept the Nazis. Yes, they will dom­in­ate the con­tin­ent of Europe, but that is not our prob­lem. Let’s ap­pease them. Why? Be­cause it can’t be done. We can­not pos­sibly stand against them.

In Amer­ica there were voices who listened to that; I sus­pect the same pun­dits who said it couldn’t be done. If this had happened in the 1940s, we would have been listen­ing to them. Even then they would have made tele­vi­sion. They would have got­ten bey­ond the car­ri­er pi­geons and let­ters and they would have been on TV say­ing: You can­not de­feat the Ger­mans.

Sen. John Mc­Cain, R-Ar­iz., later pil­lor­ied Cruz on the floor for the com­par­is­on.

So, for those of you keep­ing track at home: With just three days to go un­til a pos­sible gov­ern­ment shut­down, we’ve already had com­par­is­ons to Nazi Ger­many and the Civil War. And we’re surely not done yet.

What We're Following See More »
NO MORE CUTS
House Dems Push on Puerto Rico, Citing Zika
1 hours ago
THE LATEST

"House Democrats are stepping up pressure on Republicans to advance legislation addressing Puerto Rico’s worsening debt crisis by issuing a report arguing that austerity cuts can’t be sustained and have made the island more vulnerable to the mosquito-borne Zika virus." Democrats on the House Natural Resources Committee released a report yesterday that argued "further sharp reductions in government spending can’t be a part of a legislative solution"—especially with a rainy season boosting the mosquito population and stressing an island health system already struggling to deal with the Zika virus.

Source:
USING LOCAL CELLS
Clapper: ISIS Can Stage Attacks in U.S.
1 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"ISIS has the capability to stage a Paris-style attack in the U.S. using local cells to strike in multiple locations and inflict dozens of casualties, according to the Obama administration's top U.S. intelligence official." Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told CNN's Peter Bergen that such a scenario is "something we worry about a lot in the United States, that they could conjure up a raid like they did in Paris or Brussels."

Source:
WILL ANNOUNCE PICK BEFORE CONVENTION
Trump to Name VP Search Committee
2 hours ago
THE LATEST

"Donald J. Trump said on Wednesday that he expected to reveal his vice presidential pick sometime in July—before the Republican National Convention in Cleveland—but added that he would soon announce a committee to handle the selection process, which would include Dr. Ben Carson." He said he's inclined to name a traditional political figure, unlike himself.

Source:
AFFECTS WORKERS EARNING MORE THAN $50K
Business, Nonprofits Panicking Over Labor’s New Overtime Rules
2 hours ago
THE LATEST

"Groups have flocked to the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs to ask for last-minute changes" to the Department of Labor's new overtime rules, which would require that businesses pay overtime to any salaried employee making more than $50,440 per year, up from the current $23,660. Business interests, as well as some nonprofits, say the move could lead to mass change in workers' statuses, from salaried to hourly. "The White House office held 22 meetings on the proposal in April, according to its calendar, and groups say more meetings are planned this week." Last month, National Journal's Alex Brown reported on how the change might affect Washington.

Source:
KAUFMAN, HUNTSMAN ALSO MAY JUMP ON BOARD
Ed Rollins Joins Pro-Trump Super PAC
2 hours ago
THE LATEST

Republican gun-for-hire Ed Rollins is hopping on the bandwagon, er, the Great America PAC, "an outside group that’s supporting Trump. ... Rollins isn’t the only GOP mainstay coming around to Trump. In recent days, Republican veterans including Republican National Committeeman Ron Kaufman and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman have expressed an openness to him."

Source:
×