Thursday, March 04, 2010

Bunning blinks, drops filibuster on unemployment benefits bill

It has been a busy week, however, I did notice that our favorite, demented, Senator Jim Bunning has backed down from his one-man filibuster against approving unemployment benefits in the Senate. The Senate then immediately approved the unemployment extension bill 78 to 19. What I found especially interesting about this political temper tantrum was the Republican support for Bunning. From the website:


Corker Defended Bunning, Said Senate Was “Stooping To A Low Level.” On the Senate floor, Senator Corker defended Senator Bunning and said, “I believe we are stooping to a low level. The Senator from Kentucky and I agree on a lot and we disagree on a lot, and I am not here at this moment to debate the merits of either side. What I am saying is this is not the way the Senate functions. Everybody in the country now knows that the Senator from Kentucky has a hold on this bill. That is something that is honored. Not a hold on the bill, but he is objecting to unanimous consent, and that is something that we honor in this body.” [Congressional Record, 2/25/10]

Sessions Defended Bunning, Said He’s Blocking Unemployment Benefits “As A Matter Of Principle.” On the Senate floor, Senator Sessions defending Senator Bunning and said, “I think the Senator from Kentucky is speaking on behalf of the conscience of a lot of Americans, a majority of Americans, if they heard this debate. He is doing it as a matter of principle. I know he has no desire to see people not receive unemployment compensation. He is willing to support that. He simply is saying that enough is enough.” [Congressional Record, 2/25/10]

Sessions Again Defended Bunning, Said He Respects Bunning’s “Courage.” Just yesterday, Senator Sessions again defended Senator Bunning. Sessions spoke about Bunning’s actions on the Senate floor and said, “I respect him for the courage he showed. [Congressional Record, 3/1/10]

Cornyn Admires Bunning’s “Courage.” Senator Cornyn took to the Senate floor, suggested that Senators Bunning and Corker were not afforded the procedural opportunity to explain the GOP filibuster of unemployment benefits and said, “I understand that Senator Durbin retained the floor for the most part and yielded for questions, but basically the procedure denied Senator Bunning and Senator Corker, who I know also weighed in, an opportunity to explain precisely what was going on…. I want to say I admire the courage of the junior Senator from Kentucky, Mr. Bunning.” [Congressional Record, 2/26/10]

Kyl Defended Bunning, Said He “Made A Good Point.” “Bunning got support from Senate Republican Whip Jon Kyl, who defended his colleagues insistence of paying for the legislation with unused stimulus funds. ‘You can't say that everything we do around here needs to be offset,’ said Kyl, ‘and then waive the pay go legislation every time you want to do it.’ ‘My colleague from Kentucky made a good point.’” [Politico, 3/1/10]


McConnell Took To The Floor, Didn’t Say A Word About Bunning. This morning, Republican Leader Mitch McConnell took to the Senate floor and didn’t mention Senator Bunning’s actions, or the 1.2 million Americans who are affected by the filibuster on unemployment or the 3,181 Kentuckians who will exhaust their benefits this week ALONE. [Senate floor, 3/2/10,, 3/2/10]

When Asked About Bunning’s Actions, McConnell Dodged. At the Republican stakeout today, McConnell was repeatedly asked about his fellow senator from Kentucky actions. McConnell refused to directly answer the question and said, “We're in the process of working this out, and hopefully it will be resolved in the near future.” [CQ transcript, Republican stakeout, 3/2/10]

GOP Not “Available For Comment” On Bunning’s Actions. “Representatives of senators in states that have seen furloughs, including Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Bob Bennett (R-Utah), did not respond to inquiries seeking comment about Bunning’s push. Aides to two Republicans running for the Senate — former Rep. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del.) — also did not respond to inquiries seeking comment, and a spokeswoman for Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), a Senate candidate in Illinois, said the congressman wasn’t available for comment.” [Politico, 3/2/10]

I decided to take a look at who voted against the unemployment extension, Corker, Sessions and Cornyn all voted against the bill. Senator Jon Kyl voted for the unemployment bill. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, who remained silent on Bunning's temper tantrum, voted against the bill.

So what does this mean? For the GOP, it is all about playing political attacks and obstructionism against the Democrats, and not providing any sort of bipartisan governing for the country. A crackpot senator decided to gum up an unemployment extension bill with a filibuster, and the Republicans decided to use this crackpot senator to play political partisanship against the Democrats. Of course when Bunning blinks, and the unemployment benefits bill does come for a floor vote, a majority of the Republicans will then perform a CYA to vote for the unemployment extension--the last thing the GOP would want is the Democrats attacking them for not providing benefits to unemployed Americans during a midterm election year. Looking at those Republicans who did vote against the measure, they were all located in strong, red states.

But this entire Bunning temper tantrum really shows another side to the Republican Party. Not only is the GOP a Party of No, and obstructionism, but it is also a party that seems to be consumed by extremists and crackpots. I've been watching how the GOP has been reaching out to the Tea Party activists, where even Sarah Palin gave a keynote address to the Tea Party Convention. Look at how the GOP is trying to muzzle their own lunatic fringe, while many of the top Republican leaders are also lunatics--and I'm not talking about the Republican political leaders here. The Democrats need to highlight, and pound this message that the Republican Party is no longer a party of conservatives, but rather a party of lunatics, extremists, and crackpots. And for the past week, Senator Jim Bunning was the lunatic poster child for the Republican Party, with his insane filibuster on the unemployment benefits extension. While Bunning was having his temper tantrum, the rest of the GOP leadership kept quiet, deferring their political souls to the lunatic fringe.

Welcome to the new Republican Party.

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