Recently, Senator Jim Bunning (R-Kentucky) objected to a $15 billion appropriations bill to extend unemployment compensation that was not offset by cuts in other spending, despite an act approved by Congress only the week before to require that all such spending be paid for.
One liberal Senator declared that Bunning’s principled stand demonstrated what is wrong with the Senate: that one liberal Democratic Senator can hold up people’s unemployment payments. What is wrong with the liberal-dominated Senate is that it gives away so much public money that it makes many Americans dependent on politicians. Americans’ economic well being should not depend upon the political process.
People were afraid of losing their benefits, even though no one – not even Bunning – was opposed to extending them. Thus, there was never a doubt that the benefits would be extended. The only source of fear came from liberal scare tactics, not conservative Senators.
This unemployment compensation debate is like the claims during every federal election by Democrats that the Republicans will cut or eliminate Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid. The Democrats fail to see that their scare tactics – although politically effective in the short term – undermine their intent of providing economic security for everyone by exposing the fact that no one is secure who depends upon politicians.
Bunning’s reasonable argument is that the debt created by appropriations that are not paid for undermines the economy by increasing the federal debt, which burdens future generations of Americans. Liberal Democrats, however, seized the political opportunity to villify Bunning as cruel. Joined by only a handful of other conservative Republican Senators, Bunning agreed to a compromise that allowed votes on whether to pay for the measure, but the Democrats had the votes to add to the debt in order to be seen as helping the poor, as if the debt does not harm the poorest the most.
Update: Another measure extending unemployment insurance and other spending provisions that were not offset with spending cuts was objected to by Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK), who was supported by a number of other Republican Senators, who were able to reach a bipartisan compromise with the Democratic leadership of the Senate to pay for it. However, the Democratic leadership of the House of Representatives declined to agree. Today, Senate Democrats rejected the bipartisan compromise they had reached and decided to accept the House version, calling the measure “emergency spending,” meaning that it does not have to be paid for under budget rules.
Despite the vilification of Bunning, Senate Republicans are succeeding in raising public awareness of the increasing burden of debt and should continue to pressure Congressional Democrats to offset spending increases with spending cuts, as they promised to do.