Senator Bunning’s Finest Hour: Stopping the Reckless Congress by Gregory Hilton

“If the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, ‘This was their finest hour.'” — Sir Winston Churchill, June 18th, 1940

Senator Jim Bunning (R-KY), 79, has been on Capitol Hill for 24 years, but yesterday was his finest hour. He was the only Senator to object to the unanimous consent agreement which would have extended unemployment cash and health benefits for 1.2 million Americans.
Bunning doesn’t oppose the benefits. They would cost $10 billion in borrowed money, with interest due in a year. The Senator just wants to bring an immediate halt to any more deficit spending. Bunning is insisting Congress first pay for these benefits because the government should no longer be spending money it does not have.
I sure wish other lawmakers would act in this manner. Were any of these Senators paying attention earlier this week when Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said the current long-term deficits are “unsustainable” and they could push up interest rates and place a drag on the economy.
Bunning is the one Senator insisting Congress must comply with the “Pay-Go” (pay as you go) rules they just adopted. Pay-Go was intended to stop Congress from passing any more spending without first finding the money to pay for it. The Democrats often cite Pay-Go to demonstrate they are serious about budget deficits, but the program is worthless because the requirement is always waived.
There are many things all of us would like to purchase, but we can not afford them and we avoid going into debt. The liberal Congress never understands this message.
If these benefits are so important the Congress should find a way to pay for them. “If we can’t find $10 billion somewhere for a bill that everybody in this body supports, we will never pay for anything,” he said. Bunning’s suggestion is to use leftover “stimulus” money to pay for these benefits. The suggestion is excellent, and transfer payments accounted for over 80% of stimulus spending last year.
If his colleagues do not like that idea, then the money can come out of the budgets for National Public Radio, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, green jobs, price supports for multi-millionaire farmers, or those eight new jets the Congress is ordering for its junkets.
The Democrats are resorting to their usual solution. They want to pay for these benefits on credit so future generations will be stuck with the bill. Bunning’s idea is to take away the Congressional credit card. He brought the Senate to a halt by objecting to a unanimous consent agreement, and the liberal news media went ballistic. Time magazine has ranked him among the five worst Senators.
One columnist described him as “loutish, eccentric and mean,” and another said the Democrats ought to make Bunning “the poster boy of the right-wing filibuster.” What they did not say is that this bill was passed by the House six months ago. Why is their anger not directed at Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV)?
Reid could have called the bill up earlier so objections could have been dealt with under the regular rules. Instead, Reid waited until the day before adjournment, but then his usual cloture motion trick would not work before the benefits expired.
Furthermore, it has been Reid’s policy to stop the Senate from operating under unanimous consent agreements. The liberals never said anything about this change in long established procedures when it was instituted in 2007. If Reid is so concerned about the unemployed, then why did he kill the bipartisan unemployment bill passed by the Finance Committee? All of the spending portions of that bill were paid for.
“Remember now, this all could’ve been changed had not the leader of the Senate decided that a bipartisan compromise jobs bill was not as important as his partisan jobs bill that just passed just before all of this debate,” Bunning said in his final remarks.
There is always a crisis used by the liberals to increase our debt burden. My sympathy is with the taxpayers. Am I cold hearted regarding the unemployed? No, all 100 Senators are in favor of this temporary extension. The Senate returns on Tuesday, and this bill is going to pass that day.
What Bunning has accomplished is to emphasize the hypocrisy of the liberals. They just passed the Pay-Go bill and the first thing they do is to make a $10 billion exemption. The unemployed are not going to suffer, but hopefully the taxpayer will gain because of Bunning’s courage.
His loud and clear message is how do we pay for this bill? Of course he is correct that the money should come from the stimulus. Bunning’s battle is essential because this is just an opening shot. The next initiative is the longer-term $100 billion jobless benefits package. This is also being exempted from Pay-Go. I am so glad someone is saying STOP to all of this outrageous deficit spending. Bunning is raising the correct question, what reductions can be made to the federal deficit?
The crisis occurred because Majority Leader Reid abandoned the $85 billion bipartisan jobs bill which was paid for. “My gosh, we’ve got over $400 billion in unspent stimulus money,” Bunning said on the Senate floor. “I’ll be here as long as you’re here and as long as all those other senators are here and I’m going to object every time because you won’t pay for this and you propose to never pay for it.”
Pay-Go passed by the House in 2007, and even Speaker Pelosi has used this trick to claim she is a deficit hawk. Pay-Go sounds great until you realize they exempt all of the liberal spending programs. There is a key difference between the GOP and Democratic Pay-Go proposals. Republicans wanted no easy exemptions.
Once again, this bill will be passed on Tuesday and no one is going to suffer. The opening shot has been made and now we are on to the $100 billion battle over the jobless benefits package. All we are asking is how do you pay for these new spending programs. It is a question which needs to be heard over and over again in the reckless Congress.
Senator Bunning is under fire for doing the right thing. He wants Congress to pay for its programs, quit passing bills that aren’t funded, and stop adding to the deficit for the sake of political expediency. He’s trying to bring change to Washington. Didn’t someone promise to do that before?

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