Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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March 1, 2010

TODAY IS 'THANK JIM BUNNING DAY'.... It's hard to overstate how absurd these developments really are.

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.

Remember, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) agreed on a measure to extend the funding, but Sen. Jim Bunning (R) of Kentucky, who has occasionally seemed mentally unstable in recent years, single-handedly blocked unanimous consent and generated this fiasco.

When a Democratic senator implored Bunning to be reasonable, and understand the consequences of his obstructionism, the far-right Republican senator said, "Tough shit."

Today we'll see some of the fallout, with construction workers being sent home from the job on a variety of projects, and temporary furloughs affecting employees at the Federal Highway Administration, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Research, and Innovative Technology Administration. All of this, of course, is on top of Bunning also blocking extended unemployment benefits.

Bunning's Republican colleagues assured the public over the weekend that the funding will resume and that the Senate will approve a measure this week. But even the fix isn't as simple as it sounds.

Judy Conti, a lobbyist for the [National Employment Law Project], said that even when Bunning is eventually thwarted and the extension is passed, state governments will still have to deal with the extra administrative costs of shutting down and restarting the extended benefits programs.

"Once the program is retroactively reauthorized, the federal government is going to send the same amount of money, but his own state government is going to have to spend even more money," Conti said.

"What happened last night was an absolute disgrace. There is a time and a place a purpose for debate on deficit reduction, but you don't make your stand on the back of the unemployed. It is ill-informed, counter productive and just cruel."

If the Senate were able to function just a little better, this nonsense wouldn't even be possible.

Steve Benen 10:05 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (22)

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Occasionally seemed unstable? I think this is serious understatement of the situation.

Posted by: Tired liberal on March 1, 2010 at 10:13 AM | PERMALINK

Bunning is clearly shuttling back and forth between lucidity and, well, not, with extended periods of what you might call "high-functioning paranoia" in between. We've all had a parent or grandparent go through this phase, and what you notice is that the "acting out" doesn't happen when they're divorced from reality--it happens when they're at their sharpest, because that's when they're the most scared and angry at what's happening to them.

So here's my question about Bunning: do we excuse the behavior on account of the mental instability even though it's happening during the periods when he's well enough to appear in the Senate? (I mean "excuse" in the sense of "forgive," not "permit.")

Don't get me wrong--Bunning was no saint even when he was all there, and of course there's plenty of blame to go around for the people enabling him. But I'm getting a weird feeling that there's no amount of censuring or scolding that can reach Bunning now.

Posted by: Matt on March 1, 2010 at 10:15 AM | PERMALINK

If the Senate were able to function just a little better, this nonsense wouldn't even be possible.

And a lot more suffering Americans know that Dems have a majority in the Senate than know who the hell Jim Bunning is or what he did. And the MSM isn't likely to help them sort it out.

So while this may look at first glance like a good political hit against the Republicans, I can pretty well assure you that most Americans will blame the Democrats for this, because it is their responsibiity to make sure the Senate "functions just a little better."

It is shameful it was ever allowed to come to this, and it will compound that shame if the Dems can't figure out how to make sure this hurts Republicans more than it hurts Democrats. I'm not holding my breath.

Posted by: zeitgeist on March 1, 2010 at 10:17 AM | PERMALINK

OK, I really still don't understand how this is possible. I sort of understand how the anonymous holds work, and that it's observed in the Senate out of courtesy, if I understand correctly. Is this similar? I've read a few different articles and blog posts on the issue, and haven't gotten a clear picture for how Bunning is able to signle-handed block this.

Posted by: Kris on March 1, 2010 at 10:30 AM | PERMALINK

Bunning's Republican colleagues assured the public over the weekend that the funding will resume...

As if to prove zeitgeist's point, I saw a brief TV report that said Republicans would ensure the funding would go through. No mention of why the funding is being blocked, just that Republicans would swoop to the rescue.

Posted by: Grumpy on March 1, 2010 at 10:30 AM | PERMALINK

What is the Senate doing about Bunning's hold? Have they held a cloture vote?

I read that Democrats could have made Bunning keep talking but they let him go home. Why?

Posted by: Unstable Isotope on March 1, 2010 at 10:32 AM | PERMALINK

Bunning's gambit might actually breach the MSM rules that forces conventional wisdom into a strait-jacket. It's also why America may have to go Full Kook and let Joe Sixpack understand on a personal level what Republican governance looks like. We've had 30 years of propaganda where governnment is demonized and capitalism is exalted. It's gotten to the point where even the unemployed and uninsured think tax cuts for the rich are the only answer to their plight. Well, okay then. You want that? Here it is.

Posted by: walt on March 1, 2010 at 10:32 AM | PERMALINK

This will definitely be presented as a failure by the Democrats.

Posted by: SaintZak on March 1, 2010 at 10:36 AM | PERMALINK

All of these shutdowns are nothing compared with the fact that this poor, pampered, ex-major league baseball star missed a college basketball game! Doesn't anyone have priorities anymore? Pave this. Unemployed that. What were all those people doing talking about that boring stuff when Bunning wanted to watch some hoops?

Posted by: JoeW on March 1, 2010 at 10:38 AM | PERMALINK

The most ludicrous part of this was that after Bunning started this, and Durbin and others forced him to stay on the Senate floor to defend his egomaniacal actions, he had the nerve to complain that they made him miss the South Carolina-Kentucky basketball game.

What a fucking ass.

Posted by: TR on March 1, 2010 at 10:40 AM | PERMALINK

Remind me again why our House of Lords can't just ignore one of their members when he singlehandedly shuts down government? Oh, right. I forgot. We're not really a democracy. A republic -- that means a ratified plutocracy or consensual oligarchy -- take your pick.

Posted by: Greg Worley on March 1, 2010 at 10:47 AM | PERMALINK

Tell me again how and why a single Senator can block legislation agreed to by both parties? I do not understand the Senate. Is there really no recourse for Reid and the majority party to push this legislation through?

Posted by: ckelly on March 1, 2010 at 10:57 AM | PERMALINK

The Democrats should amke a huge issue of this, and blame it on both Bunning and the GOP caucus. Loudly and often.

Posted by: Bernard Yomtov on March 1, 2010 at 11:08 AM | PERMALINK

Not quite correct to say Bunning did it singlehandedly - he had at least one Republican colleague waiting in the wings in case he needed a break.

Posted by: Proudhon on March 1, 2010 at 11:19 AM | PERMALINK

Is there any evidence that Dems are bringing some pain to the GOP because of this asshole? Any ads being aired in his district?

And I second Unstable Isotope. Why was this guy allowed to leave? They should have made him strap on the Depends (if they weren't there already).

Posted by: bdop4 on March 1, 2010 at 11:29 AM | PERMALINK

"This will definitely be presented as a failure by the Democrats".

Saint Zak

So true, Your Holiness, and riffing just a little further on that theme, it will be held up until the repreive can be presented as a gift from the Republicans. The proletariat will forget who caused it in the first place.

The old shell game works better the more trouble the audience has keeping it's eye on the ball.

Posted by: Mark on March 1, 2010 at 11:39 AM | PERMALINK

Maybe we need to start email blitzes on our Dem senators and without pulling any punches let them know that enough is enough and that they sit on their asses at their own peril, that we have long memories, and come their time for re-election we will remember their cowardice.

Posted by: Chris on March 1, 2010 at 11:41 AM | PERMALINK

Just heard the report on this issue on the hourly CNN Radio News. They said "Because the Senate failed to act..."

No mention of Republicans
No mention of filibuster
No mention of Bunning

Thanks, SCLM.

Posted by: martin on March 1, 2010 at 11:56 AM | PERMALINK

I was actually shocked and relieved this morning when the morning news on WGN in Chicago (normally highly slanted in the anti-Dem direction) made it very clear that Bunning alone was responsible for this, and mentioned not only that he's a Rethug but listed out the number of people being affected. I'm sure most media outlets are fudging it, as Martin mentions @11:56, but this one was a welcome surprise.

Posted by: J on March 1, 2010 at 2:01 PM | PERMALINK

As Mr. Bunning is a retired major league baseball pitcher, I think it would be appropriate to string up Bunning naked and have every unemployed worker affected by this creep's coldheartedness, fire a fastball at his genitalia.

Posted by: Sam Simple on March 1, 2010 at 2:09 PM | PERMALINK

Filibuster? No one is filibustering anything, they have only threatened to filibuster, this shit will not end until they actually call them on it, and make them filibuster. This seems like a great case to make them start.


For Rachel Maddow fans;

Tarantino? No one has really Tarantino, the opposing side are such Ed Woods that even if they did Scorsese it would go by them like John Waters and they would be left looking like Cecil B DeMille

Posted by: Fed up and Tired on March 1, 2010 at 2:44 PM | PERMALINK

First we lost our retirement and all our savings, then we lost our jobs and the benefits we paid into for years, then we lost our homes that we worked so, so hard for and now we can not even feed OUR CHILDREN. These things are not suppose to happen to HARD WORKING AMERICANS and right now we need some help.

Posted by: Greig on March 2, 2010 at 1:08 AM | PERMALINK



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