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Monday, March 01, 2010

GOP senator’s hold puts 2,000 federal employees out of work

Dick Cheney argues “deficits don't matter”.

I thought deficits "didn't matter"? When did that change?
Two thousand federal transportation workers will be furloughed without pay on Monday, and the Obama administration said they have a Kentucky senator to blame for it.
Federal reimbursements to states for highway programs will also be halted, the Transportation Department said in a statement late Sunday. The reimbursements amount to about $190 million a day, according to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
The furloughs and freeze on payments were the result of a decision last week by Republican Sen. Jim Bunning to block passage of legislation that would have extended federal highway and transit programs, the department said. Those programs expired at midnight Sunday.
The extension of transportation programs was part of a larger package of government programs that also expired Sunday, including unemployment benefits for about 400,000 Americans.
Bunning objected to the $10 billion measure, saying it would add to the budget deficit. He didn't immediately respond to a request Sunday for comment.
The impasse has provided the administration with an opening to excoriate Republicans for allowing popular programs to run out, even if only for a short time.
"As American families are struggling in tough economic times, I am keenly disappointed that political games are putting a stop to important construction projects around the country," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement. LinkHere

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Bunning's homestate paper slams his 'callous grandstanding.' The Lexington Herald-Leader published a scathing editorial today taking on both Bunning and the two Republicans aiming to replace him this November (who both have supported his efforts):
As long as Republicans were in charge, Sen. Jim Bunning was OK with trading a surplus for a deficit. He voted to put two wars, tax cuts and a Medicare drug benefit on the nation's credit card.
Now that Republicans are no longer in charge, Bunning is drawing the line on deficit spending. He's doing it in a way that shows callous contempt for the more than one in 10 working Kentuckians whose jobs disappeared in the economic meltdown.
We've become accustomed to bizarre, egocentric behavior from Bunning. So it wasn't all that surprising when he single-handedly blocked an unemployment benefits extension for a million people, including 119,230 in Kentucky, whose benefits run out this year. About 14,000 Kentuckians will exhaust their benefits in two weeks without the extension.
Bunning's filibuster also denies newly laid-off workers help paying for health insurance. It halts road and bridge projects around the country by furloughing 2,000 federal transportation employees, stops reimbursements to state highway programs and cuts Medicare payments to doctors.
To those who know him, it's not surprising that Bunning answered a Democratic colleague's complaint with a crude profanity. Or that he joked about missing a basketball game while pushing some unemployed Kentuckians into homelessness or bankruptcy.
What is surprising is that Trey Grayson and Rand Paul, the leading Republicans to succeed Bunning, jumped on his one-man band wagon. LinkHere
In recent days, Sen. Jim Bunning has been obstructing the passage of a bill that would extend unemployment benefits for nearly a million Americans, claiming that they aren’t “paid for.”
But in 2003, Bunning not only voted for an unemployment extension but also put out a glowing press release lauding the extension of unemployment benefits as “hopeful news for our most needy families in Kentucky“:
U.S. Senator Jim Bunning today announced that legislation to extend temporary unemployment benefits for an additional five months has passed the United States Congress. The legislation, which was unanimously approved yesterday by the Senate and by a vote of 416-4 today in the House, would also provide a temporary 13-week extension of unemployment benefits for all individuals who exhaust their traditional benefits before June 1, 2003. “The 108th Congress is off to a solid start,” said Bunning. “This is hopeful news for our most needy families in Kentucky. By approving this legislation we will help those folks who are currently without work continue to make ends meet until they can find new employment.” Passage of this legislation means that there will be no lapse in assistance for the nearly 10,000 Kentuckians who have filed claims so far for extended benefits. The last extension expired on December 28, 2002. President Bush is expected to sign the bill tomorrow, which means the next payment to states can still be made on Friday, January 10, as originally scheduled.
The CBO estimates that at the time, the budgetary cost of the unemployment benefit increase was $6.6 billion between 2003 and 2007. The Labor Department estimates that 4,300 Kentuckians will lose their unemployment benefits during the week of March 13 without an extension. If Bunning’s stance today is truly principled, then why didn’t he stand up to fight the unpaid-for benefits in 2003, under the Republican President Bush?
Update Bunning missed nearly half of all floor votes in the Senate during the crucial month of December, including the vote on the health care bill and the defense appropriations bill.


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