Last night, while most Americans were watching the Olympics, Senator Jim Bunning (R-KY) was standing strong for the American people on the floor of the United States Senate. Oh, it won’t be portrayed as such – believe me. But when no other Senator, including anyone in Republican leadership, would stand up, Senator Bunning took to the floor to object to a unanimous consent request to call up and pass the House-passed extension of a number of expiring so-called “stimulus” and other benefit programs, because Bunning dared to ask the simple question of how these extensions would be paid for.
Now, to be fair, Senator Bob Corker did come down to help Senator Bunning – basically saying he would stay on the floor to help defend Bunning’s right to object, and he deserves credit for that. But Bunning was the loan objector. And he did so because these “temporary” extensions have been rolling now month after month with no effort to pay for them. Moreover, Democrats are designating the extensions as “emergency” spending so that they can avoid complying with the very “PAYGO” requirements for which they love to path themselves on the back. Included, of course, is the unemployment insurance extension as well as an extension for COBRA coverage, but in addition, are extensions of the highway trust fund, satellite television and other expenditures.
Senator Bunning’s refusal to acquiesce caused quite a few heated exchanges on the Senate floor, according to Politico, culminating in Senator Bunning muttering “tough sh*t” from his Senate seat after being berated by Democrats for a few hours. But possibly the most absurd was this classic lunacy by Senators Durbin and Rockefeller:
“It is simply unfair for one senator to attempt to hold the Senate hostage on this issue,” Durbin said. Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) told POLITICO that it’s “just awful,” and that Bunning’s objection could turn off televisions for millions of households with satellite dishes, since the package has provisions dealing with that issue.“You’ve got to be pretty mad about something to stop that,” Rockefeller said of Bunning.
This is how Senators think. You see, the way the Senate works is that the powers-that-be package a whole host of big spending or nefarious policy into a bill that is wrapped in a bow of something like “unemployment insurance” or has some title that no one could possibly object to, and then you ask unanimous consent to call it up and pass it. No debate. No discussion. Just waltz on down to the Senate floor and ask consent – and when a Senator says, “hmmm… I dunno, perhaps we should have some debate about spending another 10 or 20 billion dollars every 30 days, and perhaps at least think about a way to pay for this stuff,” he is excoriated for “hating” people and left out to dry by friend and foe alike because no one has the damn nerve to stand up and say, “you know what, you’re right.” Instead, business-as-usual in the Senate is to talk about “my friend” from wherever, and to let federal spending balloon out of control while you laugh in the cloakroom or run to catch your flight to another junket somewhere.
Reasonable people can disagree about whether the programs should be extended. But this is just a small glimpse into the sickness infecting Washington and the U.S. Congress – that legislation is somehow supposed to just be put on automatic pilot and anyone who dares to raise a question is “holding the Senate hostage,” or might, heaven forbid, be declared a member of the “Party of No.”