Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Jim Bunning Now and Then

Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY) finally caved last night on his one-man not-really-a-filibuster he’d been holding in the Senate in objection to extending unemployment benefits and a host of other things.

For five days, retiring Sen. Jim Bunning held his fellow Republicans hostage. He stood his ground, angry and alone, a one-man blockade against unemployment benefits, Medicare payments to doctors, satellite TV to rural Americans and paychecks to highway workers.

“Enough,” the Kentucky Republican thundered repeatedly, his face red, as he stood in the way of Washington spending more money he said it didn’t have on an extension of popular programs. Finally, as supporters and critics yelled at each other outside his Lexington office, he capitulated from the well of the Senate on Tuesday night.

Relentless attacks from Democrats and withering support from Republicans, worried that the Hall of Fame pitcher was turning the party’s message of principled objection to raging obstructionism, ended Bunning’s stand. He had forced about 2,000 federal employees into furloughs and imperiled jobless benefits for millions.

I suppose you could give Mr. Bunning some credit for taking a principled stand against deficit spending. He wasn’t always like that. Via Matthew Yglesias, here’s how Sen. Bunning once felt about extending temporary benefits:

U.S. Senator Jim Bunning today announced that legislation to extend temporary unemployment benefits for an additional five months has passed the United States Congress. The legislation, which was unanimously approved yesterday by the Senate and by a vote of 416-4 today in the House, would also provide a temporary 13-week extension of unemployment benefits for all individuals who exhaust their traditional benefits before June 1, 2003. “The 108th Congress is off to a solid start,” said Bunning. “This is hopeful news for our most needy families in Kentucky. By approving this legislation we will help those folks who are currently without work continue to make ends meet until they can find new employment.” Passage of this legislation means that there will be no lapse in assistance for the nearly 10,000 Kentuckians who have filed claims so far for extended benefits. The last extension expired on December 28, 2002. President Bush is expected to sign the bill tomorrow, which means the next payment to states can still be made on Friday, January 10, as originally scheduled.

And as we all know, they weren’t paid for back in 2003, either. Gee, I wonder what happened to make him suddenly become such a fiscal conservative.