02.28.2010 0

Democrats Stab Bunning in the Back, Republicans Rally around Paying for $10 Billion Unemployment Extension

  • On: 03/03/2010 09:39:59
  • In: Fiscal Responsibility
  • By Robert Romano

    How hard is it to cut $10 billion out of the $3.6 trillion federal budget? That’s what Senator Jim Bunning (R-KY) wanted to know. It’s a good question: Can the U.S. Senate cut anything at all to pay for new spending?

    With the national debt now reaching the uncanny heights of $12.4 trillion, soaring towards 100 percent of the GDP within a few short years, it is a question that may come to haunt lawmakers. And sooner rather than later.

    Controversy ensued last week when Bunning objected to unanimous consent on H.R. 4691, forcing a floor debate on the issue of whether or not to pay for an unfunded $10 billion extension in unemployment benefits. At first, Bunning proposed paying for it out of a portion of the unspent $787 billion “stimulus.”

    Monday, on the floor of the Senate, Bunning explained his stand, “If we can’t find $10 billion to pay for it, we’re not going to pay for anything. We will not pay for anything fully on the floor of the U.S. Senate.” He’s right. If the Senate cannot bring itself to cut $10 billion to pay for unemployment benefits, how will it ever balance a budget that is $1.56 trillion in deficit?

    To offer some perspective, that $10 billion comprises less than one percent of the total budget — 0.27 percent to be exact. Congress’ pathetic display in the face of Bunning’s challenge to cut something — anything — to pay for the bill tells the American people everything they need to know about Washington’s commitment to fiscal responsibility.

    Instead, the American people will be forced to pay interest on this unemployment extension — and all other deficit-spending. By 2020, interest owed on the national debt will total $840 billion. That’s 38.79 percent of present day revenue, just to pay interest on the debt.

    Despite pressure from Democrats, the media, and even members of his own party, Bunning stood his ground, demanding a debate on how to fund the $10 billion without borrowing money from Japan, China, and Saudi Arabia.

    Finally, last night, it appeared that Bunning had prevailed when he accepted a deal that would have allowed an up-or-down vote on the amendment that would have funded the deal. In the lead-up, Bunning made the case for the very pay-go rules that had just been enacted into law by the Democrat majorities of Congress.

    Bunning relished the opportunity, and in a statement after the deal was reached, he said, “I hope Senate Democrats tonight vote for their own pay-fors and show Americans that they are committed to fiscal discipline. I will be watching them closely and checking off the hypocrites one by one.”

    Obviously concerned about the prospects of Bunning’s up-or-down vote actually succeeding, and Bunning walking away victorious, Democrats sought to deny Bunning his opportunity to hold Congress to its word. At the eleventh hour, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) broke the deal, raising a point of order against the consideration of Bunning’s amendment, which would have paid for the unemployment benefits and other programs by repealing a $24 billion “black liquor” tax credit subsidy.

    Bunning at first looked like a deer caught in headlights, but quickly recovered, requesting that the Senate waive Boxer’s objection by a Yay or Nay vote. The amendment was then defeated by a vote of 53 to 43, upholding the Boxer objection. Senate Republicans rallied to Bunning’s defense (not one of them voted to uphold the objection), and were joined by Democrat Senators Russ Feingold, Ben Nelson, Blanche Lincoln, and Joe Lieberman.

    Even Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), who earlier had accused Bunning of “hurting the American people” for his stand, voted to waive the objection so that Bunning would get his up-or-down vote on his amendment.

    The American people will undoubtedly treat this roll call as an up-or-down vote on the principle of the Bunning Amendment, which is that new government spending should be paid for, and not borrowed.

    After being betrayed on the floor of the Senate, Bunning issued a statement, saying, “Democrats tonight showed their true colors by going back on their word on the agreement I had reached with Majority Leader Reid to have an up-or-down vote on my amendment to fully pay for the unemployment extension and other federal programs. Instead, Senate Democrats used a procedural gimmick so they would not have to vote on my pay-for amendment. What are they so afraid of?” Indeed. Probably that his amendment was about to pass.

    Bunning continued, “I support the underlying [unemployment extension] legislation and support those who are out of work and need a helping hand. What I do not support is the hypocrisy displayed by Senate Democrats. Just over a month ago Democrats passed pay-go legislation and then turned around and waived it for the next two major pieces of legislation that were considered by the Senate. What was the point of passing pay-go legislation? If Democrats continue to ignore their own rules I will oppose future legislation that is not paid for.”

    For his courage in taking a principled stand in defense of American taxpayers, Bunning deserves praise. With the nation’s ability to pay back its debts being diminished by the day by an out-of-control federal Leviathan, now is the time for the GOP to hunker down and oppose deficit-spending on every front.

    Congressional Republicans have also learned a lesson that no deal made with the Democrat leadership can now be trusted. The knife in Bunning’s back on the floor of the Senate is ample evidence of that. There can be no compromise where there is no basis for trust.

    So, to answer the question: How hard is it to cut $10 billion out of the $3.6 trillion federal budget to pay for new spending? Next to impossible. Ultimately, the unemployment extension did pass 78 to 19. And sadly, it was not paid for.

    Robert Romano is ALG News Senior Editor.


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