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