Bunning Blocks Unemployment Extension

A single Senator has blocked a routine measure that would extend unemployment benefits to 1.1 million people.

Bunning Blocks UnemploymentThe Senate failed late Thursday to extend programs for laid-off workers, jeopardizing unemployment benefits scheduled to expire over the weekend.  The benefits are part of a larger package of government programs, from highway funding to loans for small businesses, set to expire Sunday because senators couldn’t agree on how to pay for an extension.

The House passed a bill Thursday extending the programs for a month while lawmakers consider how to address the issues long-term. Senate Democrats repeatedly tried to follow suit Thursday night but they couldn’t overcome the objections of a single lawmaker, Republican Sen. Jim Bunning of Kentucky, that the $10 billion bill would add to the budget deficit.

The bill would extend unemployment payments to laid-off workers and provide them with subsidies to help pay health premiums through the COBRA program. It would extend funding for highway projects and spare doctors from a 21 percent cut in Medicare payments. It would extend a small business loan program, the National Flood Insurance Program and the copyright license used by satellite television providers.

The Senate adjourned just before midnight with no further votes scheduled until Tuesday. To avoid an interruption in benefits, senators would have to act quickly when they return, a task made difficult by Senate rules that let a single senator slow the process. Bunning vowed to fight the extensions as long as they add to the deficit, though he acknowledged they will probably eventually pass.

[…]

Bunning said his only objection to the bill is its impact on the deficit. He proposed paying for the extensions with unspent money from the massive economic recovery package enacted a year ago, but Democrats objected.  “I believe we should pay for it,” Bunning said. “I’m trying to make a point to the people of the United States of America.”

CBS headlines this story “Unemployment Extension Fails in Senate,” demonstrating the perils of the passive voice.  Indeed, even the “senators couldn’t agree” business is terribly misleading.  Despite genuine partisan divide over how to fund this extension, it would have passed by routine unanimous consent absent Bunning’s shenanigans.

I’m quite sympathetic to Bunning’s suggestion that we should use the stimulus money to pay for this.  Indeed, it’s hard to come up with a more direct stimulus package than giving money directly to citizens most hard-hit by the recession.  But is that really a principle worth bringing the show to a halt over?

The Senate’s arcane rules, which allow a dedicated minority — and sometimes, a single senator — to slow the train are an important if extraconstitutional check on undertaking radical change with a slim majority.  Unfortunately, they’re increasingly being abused over matters of personal pique or routine legislation.  Gentleman’s agreements simply don’t work if the participants don’t conduct themselves as gentlemen.

Please follow and like us:
FILED UNDER: Congress, US Politics, , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. John Cole says:

    The best part is going to be watching Republicans rally around Bunning because they are “fiscal conservatives” now.

  2. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by JamesOTB: Bunning Blocks Unemployment Extension: A single Senator has blocked a routine measure that would extend unemployme… http://bit.ly/aKti3k

  3. steve says:

    Fiscal conservatives? I dont think that term means what they think it means. Republicans should give up on it and go start a land war in Southeast Asia.

    Steve

  4. anjin-san says:

    Late Thursday night and again Friday morning, Bunning single-handedly blocked a 30-day extension of unemployment benefits and health insurance payments for more than 1 million jobless Americans over concerns about the federal deficit.
    Along the way, he complained of having to miss the University of Kentucky’s basketball game against South Carolina and reportedly responded to a Democrat’s complaints with “tough s—.”

    Republicans must be very proud…

    http://www.kentucky.com/2010/02/27/1158396/bunning-single-handedly-stops.html

  5. Patrick T McGuire says:

    I’m quite sympathetic to Bunning’s suggestion that we should use the stimulus money to pay for this. Indeed, it’s hard to come up with a more direct stimulus package than giving money directly to citizens most hard-hit by the recession. But is that really a principle worth bringing the show to a halt over?

    Actually, Bunning’s objection was over the new “pay-go” law that the Senate recently enacted that any new legislation couldn’t add to the defecit, a law that was being ignored to pass this benefit extension.

    In other words, Bunning is standing on the priciple of upholding the law rather than ignoring it. Seems reasonable to me.

  6. Steve Plunk says:

    Patrick’s point is the one being missed. Bunning was making the Senate abide by it’s previous agreement. I guess some feel gentlemen don’t have to honor such agreements. He wasn’t so much standing against the extension of benefits as much as standing against the way they were to be paid for.

  7. Drew says:

    “But is that really a principle worth bringing the show to a halt over?”

    Absolutely. It is this “gentlemanly,” go-along -get along mentality that is bankrupting the country.

    Just look at the idiotic comments from anjin-san and steve – if you don’t just roll over and spend on social issues you are some sort of mongrel who wants to start wars or throw grandma out in the snow.

    It is this mind numbingly stupid feel good worldview that has us looking fiscally like Greece.

  8. Stan says:

    Did you back the Bush tax cuts, Drew? How about the Iraq War? Did you know how much they’d contribute to the deficit? When Cheney, citing Reagan, said that deficits don’t matter, did you erupt with rage? Or is it only social programs you object to? Just asking.

  9. steve says:

    Drew- I was commenting on the irony of a Republican claiming to be a fiscal conservative. As to the more substantive pay go issue, I had thought that was limited to new laws and policies not extensions of existing programs. Am I wrong? If I am wrong, then they need to find a way to pay for this, however, given the time constraints, I would not have that much problem with passing it and providing more time to find out a way to pay.

    Steve

  10. anjin-san says:

    if you don’t just roll over and spend on social issues you are some sort of mongrel who wants to start wars or throw grandma out in the snow.

    Actually, I was commenting on a senator whining about missing a basketball game when about a million people are trying to figure out how to pay the bills and keep their families fed.

  11. Janet says:

    “Bunning’s objection was over the new “pay-go” law that the Senate recently enacted”

    That would be the same pay-go law that BUNNING JUST VOTED AGAINST?

    And where was this fiscal concern when Bunning was voting to add trillions to the deficit for the Bush tax cuts and for Iraq? When he voted for the completely unfunded trillion-dollar Medicare drug bill?

  12. […] Joyner | Tuesday, March 2, 2010 Remember Jim Bunning blocking unemployment extension and playing chicken with dozens of projects?  Well, they’re now coming home to roost: The […]