Bunning Beaten: Job Benefits Extension Bill Passes
On March 2, the Senate finally passed the much needed job benefits extension bill, held up for the last week by Kentucky curmudgeon, Sen. Jim Bunning. Curmudgeon may be a strong word, but any Senator who flips off ABC News crews, probably has it coming.
According to the Wall Street Journal, last night the Senate was able to pass the measure, by a vote of 78 to 19, to extend benefits and health care subsidies for the jobless by one month, postpone cuts in Medicare reimbursements to doctors and release highway money. The delay in the highway funds caused the Transportation Department to furlough 2,000 employees last week.
The bill is a stopgap measure, good only for one month while lawmakers debate longer term solutions. Unemployment benefits for many expired Feb. 28, and the Labor Department said 400,000 would have seen their checks reduced within weeks if Congress hadn't acted.
But, back to Bunning. Why is the Kentucky Senator so testy? According to ABC News, after letting the news team know his mood via "sign language," he went down to the Senate floor to give his message. "I support extending unemployment benefits, COBRA benefits, flood insurance, highway bill fix, doc fix, small business loans, distant network television for satellite viewers. If we can't find $10 billion to pay for something that we all support, we will never pay for anything on the floor of this U.S. Senate." Bunning wanted the benefits money to come from the as yet unspent portion of the stimulus package.
Backing down after increasing criticism from Democrats and some in his own party, Bunning allowed the bill up for vote.
President Obama signed the benefits extension into law shortly afterward.
- Sen. Bunning is Angry: 'This Is a Senators Only Elevator! (ABC News)
- First Amendment Rights, the Middle Finger and Police Officers (FindLaw's Legally Weird)
- Get In Line: Jobless Wait on Benefit Extensions (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)