More craziness from the politicians! Republican U.S. Senator Bunning has singlehandedly blocked the passage of legislation to extend unemployment benefits to over one million Americans. (Full disclosure: Including this one. If this legislation doesn’t pass, my unemployment benefits will run out in a few weeks. Needless to say, this would be very bad.) The “gentleman” from Kentucky (a state with an unemployment rate of over ten percent) is using this opportunity to make a bold statement in favor of fiscal restraint and against deficit spending. He claims he’ll back the bill when he’s assured that it won’t be paid for with borrowed funds. Yesterday, debate stretched late into the night, as various other members practically begged the good Senator to release his hold on the bill. He refused, and indeed complained that the proceedings were keeping him from watching a basketball game on television.
Senator Bunning, RUFKMRN?!
If you want to make a point about deficit spending, great. If only someone had stopped the former President from financing an endless, two-front war with debt, we’d not be in this situation. But while the Senate is considering emergency unemployment extension legislation is not the time. Over a million Americans are counting on those benefits to pay for rent, food, and other necessities during this “jobless recovery.”
What’s allowing the Senator — this one person — to prevent passage of the bill is a parliamentary rule that exists only in the Senate. It’s known as a hold, and Senators can use it to prevent consideration of any legislation, for any or no reason at all. Combined with the filibuster, it places an enormous amount of power in the hands of a single person. Senator Shelby of Alabama has placed a hold on all of President Obama’s judicial nominations. The Senate already ludicrously concentrates power in the hands of a few — recall that Wyoming (population: 533,000) and California (population: over 36 million) have the same number of votes. It’s time for that august body to consider the reform of its rules to prevent the kind of procedural terrorism that Senators Bunning and Shelby are perpetrating.
Right after they break cloture and pass an unemployment extension bill.