Senate Republicans distressed by Jim Bunning

Sen Jim Bunning (R-KY). From Wikimedia Commons

On March 1st, 2010, Senator Jim Bunning (R-KY) launched a one man filibuster opposing an extension on a bill that extended benefits for the unemployed.  It covered unemployment benefits, COBRA insurance, and other aid.  Sen. Bunning opposed the bill on grounds that insufficient funds were on hand to pay for it, and that unused stimulus funds should be used to pay for the $10 billion price tag.  Senate Republicans, along with fiscally conservative Democrats, have been warning that overspending will see the USA running for payday loans before long.  After prodigious coverage of the cantankerously portrayed MLB Hall of Famer, he has yet to agree to compromise.

Democrats and Republicans disturbed over outburst

Though his reasoning is certainly sound, and the national debt is absolutely a looming issue, the legislation that Bunning is obstinately in the way of is seen as a critical item, which will assist thousands during a time of unemployment.  Democrats and Republicans, along with the White House are not exactly pleased with him, and his public image may suffer as a result, as well as any support he has within the Republican Party.

Republican backlash

According to a recent article on CNN, Senator Susan Collins (R – Maine), said the issue is, “so important to senators on both sides of the aisle,” and that Bunning’s opinions “do not represent the majority of the Republican caucus.”  Another GOP senator who declined to be named said about Bunning that “This plays right into the Democratic narrative that we’re obstructionist,” and that “We look insensitive.” He also added:  “To say Bunning is not beloved is an understatement.”

More than unemployment benefits are in the provision

The emergency bill included more than just an extension of unemployment benefits and COBRA health insurance – also included were satellite TV licensing, small business loans, and also an extension of funding for highway projects, the cancellation of which could potentially lead to a furlough of federal highway inspectors, which in turn would lead to construction workers being sent home as well until the bill can be passed.  An emergency bill of this kind often requires unanimous consent (everyone must vote yes) to pass, and this bill was not intended as simply another cash advance for Wall Street.

National debt vs unemployment

Government debts and deficits are bad, as bad if not worse than unemployment.   How governments take on debt is through spending more than they make (taxes).  There is a case for borrowing during recessions.

The Roosevelt administration borrowed heavily to fund World War 2, and to curb the Great Depression, which many economists opine didn’t actually end until 1946.  Obama is simply reacting in the same fashion, but here’s the kicker – how it’s supposed to work is that debt is created to curb a recession, or fight a war, but as soon as that is done, the belt is supposed to tighten and the debt paid off as soon as things return to normal.  Right now, things are not normal – unemployment is at an all time high, which only exacerbates a recessionary period.  The three largest spending constraints on the US are known – and they are Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid, and defense spending.  All three must be curbed if we are to be serious about reforming government spending.

Update – 2/3/2010

Senator Bunning has relented, and the bill, granting the extensions, has passed.

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