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Iowa Watchdog

Harkin No. 2 in Senate spending requests, asked for $272 billion in past Congress


DES MOINES – When it comes to U.S. Senators with agendas that cost taxpayers the most, look no further than Iowa Democrat Tom Harkin.

Harkin ranked second when it came to the 10 largest spending agendas among senators in the 112th Congress. His proposals during 2011-12 reaching nearly $271.5 billion, according to a newly released report by the National Taxpayers Union Foundation, a non-profit that tracks the costs of lawmaker proposals.

Sen. Tom Harkin’s proposals among the costliest in the U.S. Senate.

Sen. Tom Harkin’s proposals among the costliest in the U.S. Senate.

Unlike the president, members of Congress do not have to submit budget proposals. The foundation offers a glimpse into what they would look like if congressional delegates had to make budget plans.

The only senator to propose initiatives that cost more than Harkin’s was Vermont’s Bernard Sanders, an Independent whose plans cost more than $1 trillion, according to the foundation. Behind Harkin, was Frank Lautenberg, a Democrat from New Jersey, who passed away. His proposed measures cost $190 million.

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The most costly bill sponsored by Harkin was the Rebuild America Act, which was introduced in March 2012. It provided funds to improve schools and energy systems, give teachers professional develop, increase the minimum wage and expand childhood care and education. It also proposed changes to the tax code and gave the needed funding to rebuild the U.S. infrastructure  and expand renewable energy projects.

While Harkin may have asked for fat stacks of taxpayer cash, Senate Democrats, on average, asked for less in the past Congress. “Senate Democrats proposed an average net agenda of $39 billion each – down by $157 billion from the previous Congress,” noted Florida Watchdog’s Will Patrick.

Senate Republicans, too, focused more on savings than spending in the previous Congress. “Senate Republicans shifted to a $273 billion average savings agenda from a $25 billion spending agenda during the previous Congress,” Patrick explained.

Iowa’s other senator, Republican Chuck Grassley, didn’t make NTUF’s top 10 savers. Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul, a rising GOP star, topped the group’s list with $650 billion in cuts sought in the 112th Congress.

Contact Sheena Dooley at Sheena Dooley is the Iowa bureau chief for, where this story first appeared.

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