For the Record: Harry Reid Lied to Jim Bunning

Red County

As you’ve no doubt been reading this morning, Senator Jim Bunning “backed down” on his attempt to get the Senate to actually–GASP!!– pay for the extension of unemployment benefits rather than tossing it as just one more log on the national debt bonfire.

You are probably also under the impression that what got the Kentucky Senator to relent was an agreement with the Majority Leader that there would be an up-or-down vote on Bunning’s amendment. True.

But what didn’t happen was that vote itself.

Instead, the Democrats used a procedural tactic late last night to deny Bunning that up-or-down vote–the one Harry Reid had agreed to. That’s right: Reid flat out lied to Bunning, then Barbara Boxer pulled the rug out from under him. In an excellent post, Robert Romano with Americans for Limited Government explains:

Finally, last night, it appeared that Bunning had prevailed when he accepted a deal that would have allowed an up-or-down vote on the amendment that would have funded the deal. In the lead-up, Bunning made the case for the very pay-go rules that had just been enacted into law by the Democrat majorities of Congress.

Bunning relished the opportunity, and in a statement after the deal was reached, he said, “I hope Senate Democrats tonight vote for their own pay-fors and show Americans that they are committed to fiscal discipline. I will be watching them closely and checking off the hypocrites one by one.”

Obviously concerned about the prospects of Bunning’s up-or-down vote actually succeeding, and Bunning walking away victorious, Democrats sought to deny Bunning his opportunity to hold Congress to its word. At the eleventh hour, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) broke the deal, raising a point of order against the consideration of Bunning’s amendment, which would have paid for the unemployment benefits and other programs by repealing a $24 billion “black liquor” tax credit subsidy.

Bunning at first looked like a deer caught in headlights, but quickly recovered, requesting that the Senate waive Boxer’s objection by a Yay or Nay vote. The amendment was then defeated by a vote of 53 to 43, upholding the Boxer objection. Senate Republicans rallied to Bunning’s defense (not one of them voted to uphold the objection), and were joined by Democrat Senators Russ Feingold, Ben Nelson, Blanche Lincoln, and Joe Lieberman.

Even Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), who earlier had accused Bunning of “hurting the American people” for his stand, voted to waive the objection so that Bunning would get his up-or-down vote on his amendment.

After being betrayed on the floor of the Senate, Bunning issued a statement, saying, “Democrats tonight showed their true colors by going back on their word on the agreement I had reached with Majority Leader Reid to have an up-or-down vote on my amendment to fully pay for the unemployment extension and other federal programs. Instead, Senate Democrats used a procedural gimmick so they would not have to vote on my pay-for amendment. What are they so afraid of?”

Answer: they’re afraid of just about everything these days, including a 79 year-old retiring Senator from Kentucky and his wild notion that spending ought to be paid for. Keep up the good work, Mr. Bunning


Jim Bunning has a point

Washington Examiner

Truck loads of abuse have been dumped on retiring Kentucky Republican Sen. Jim Bunning, who challenged Congress to heed its own rules and stop spending money it doesn’t have, specifically $10 billion for unemployment benefits, COBRA health insurance subsidies, transportation construction projects and much else. Under its “Pay-Go” rules, Congress is not supposed to approve funding increases without an equal amount being cut elsewhere from the federal budget. That’s the law the Democratic majority in both chambers of Congress approved. President Obama praised it, too, saying, “Now Congress will have to pay for what it spends, just like everybody else.”

Well, apparently not, because now, when Bunning takes them at their word, all Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the rest of the Democrats who voted for Pay-Go have for him is bilious personal insults. Imagine how tense the atmosphere was yesterday as a deal to end the deadlock was discussed.

To be sure, Bunning was never a candidate for the Senate’s Mr. Congeniality, but then neither were past notable Senate mavericks like Connecticut’s Lowell Weicker, a frequently nettlesome soul who never missed an opportunity to poke a stick in President Reagan’s eye or those of his fellow Senate Republicans. In utter contrast to the bashing Bunning is getting, Weicker was praised for his “independence,” as when he almost single-handedly stopped Reagan’s proposal to shift $81 billion in federal revenues and related programs back to the states via block grants.

Unfortunately, the Bunning controversy has obscured two fundamentally important points. First, either Pay-Go means something or it doesn’t. Just in case any of Bunning’s critics haven’t noticed, their credibility with the American people is at a historic low. Only 8 percent of the respondents in a February survey for the New York Times said they believe their members of Congress should be re-elected. And 81 percent said they trust the government only sometimes or never. Congress kills its credibility when it passes laws like Pay-Go and then ignores them.

Second, unlike his critics, Bunning has a realistic solution — use unspent funds from the $787 billion economic stimulus program — that wouldn’t add yet another $10 billion to the debt burden Congress is handing America’s children and grandchildren. It’s not like senators have no choice but to ignore Pay-Go. As Bunning said, “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.” And that’s exactly the problem — Washington’s big spenders in Congress and the White House are out of control
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