God knows we need to cut government spending, but Sen. Jim Bunning sure has picked a hell of a bill to make his point. Two weeks, Bunning blocked consideration of a bill that would extend unemployment and health benefits for many Americans. The White House responded today by calling Senator Jim Bunning’ s actions “irrational.” For once, the administration is right.
And now Republican leaders, led by Senator Susan Collins are trying to end the embarrassment. According to the New York Times report on the Collins attempt to end the standoff:
Ms. Collins, who took the floor shortly after the Senate convened, said her effort was being made on “behalf of numerous members of the Republican caucus who have expressed concerns to me.”
“There are 500 Mainers whose benefits expired on Sunday,” Ms. Collins said. But Mr. Bunning, her colleague, continued to lodge his objection.
The effort by a Republican to end Mr. Bunning’s fight showed that the intensifying dispute has become a serious distraction in the Senate and a political liability for Republicans.
“I don’t know how you negotiate with the irrational,” Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, told reporters at an informal morning briefing. “I don’t know how you prevent one person who decides they hold in the palm of their hand the livelihood of hundreds of thousands who have lost their jobs.”
The White House spokesman’s criticism was couched in unusually strong language at a time when the administration is trying to be seen as searching for bipartisan comity.
There is a fine line between principled and irresponsible, and Senator Jim Bunning flew by it fifteen days ago. Senator Bunning, and Senator Bunning alone is blocking a bill that would extend expiring unemployment and health benefits for 30 days. That’s right. Jim Bunning and Jim Bunning alone has held up the bill for a month because as he says “If we can’t find $10 billion to pay for it, we’re not going to pay for anything.”
What originally seemed like a reasonable attempt to make a point to his colleagues about the need to deal with the deficit has begun to look like a bitter, irrational tirade by an out of touch Senator. Bunning’s hissy fit is threatening transportation projects and the Department of Transportation said that Bunning’s “stand” forced it to furlough 2,000 workers yesterday.
Bunning isn’t wrong that the government can’t keep spending like drunken sailors. He is absolutely right about that. But for Bunning to be doing this now is insane and it’s hypocritical. It’s insane because the extension of benefits is intended to assist thousands of individuals that lost their jobs which raises questions about whether Bunning has any sympathy at all. And it’s hypocritical because frankly Bunning was nowhere to be found when Republicans were in power and cutting taxes while spending was going through the roof.
Moreover, Bunning’s stand is giving Democrats the opportunity to do what they’ve wanted to do for so long: portray Republicans as obstructionist, unhelpful and unconcerned with the pain being felt by the American people. Currently, Democrats are compiling state-by-state lists of the impact of the Senate impasse. And on this, they aren’t wrong. One man single-handedly standing between the entire Senate and action is obstructionist, and doing it for 30 days when workers need the help is morally questionable.
Bunning’s stand needs to stop. If he doesn’t, unemployment pay will literally stop reaching tens of thousands of Americans. And if it does, who do you think they are going to vote for?
This is absurd politically and absurd morally. It just needs to stop. This isn’t touting responsible spending habits, it is on the other hand an example of irresponsible governing. Cut it out, Senator.