"Bunning Accepts Deal On Jobless Benefits
"AP/Huffington Post First Posted: 03- 2-10 11:02 AM |
"Updated: 03- 3-10 10:11 AM
"Senate passes jobless aid and road funding. Putting a lone senator's cantankerous challenge behind it, the Senate is back to work on a $100 billion-plus bill reviving popular tax breaks and extending longer and more generous jobless benefits through the end of the year.
"Kentucky Republican Jim Bunning relented on Tuesday evening, freeing the Senate to approve stopgap legislation extending for another month a host of programs, including highway funding, health insurance subsidies for the unemployed and benefits for the long-term jobless. That gives Congress time to consider the far larger measure covering most of the same programs.
"But the daunting price tag on the longer-term measure guarantees more complications and an even rougher path through the Senate than experienced by the bill passed Tuesday.
"Bunning held up action for days, causing the government to furlough highway workers and allowing some unemployment benefits to expire. He wanted to force Democrats to find ways to finance the bill so it wouldn't add to the deficit. But his move sparked a political tempest that subjected Republicans to withering media coverage and cost the party politically.
"Bunning's support among Republicans was dwindling, while Democrats used to being on the defensive over health care and the deficit seemed to relish the battle.
"Once Bunning gave in, the stopgap bill -- which passed the House last week -- passed the Senate by a 78-19 vote. President Barack Obama signed it into law late Tuesday.
"During these difficult economic times, supporting American workers, their families and our small businesses must be everyone's focus," Obama said in a statement. "I'm grateful to the members of the Senate on both sides of the aisle who worked to end this roadblock to relief for America's working families."
"Rather than winning the fight over funding the bill, Bunning eventually settled for a vote to close a tax loophole enjoyed by paper companies that get a credit from burning "black liquor," a pulp-making byproduct, as if it were an alternative fuel. The amendment failed.
"Dick Durbin of Illinois, the Senate's No. 2 Democrat, said Bunning was accepting an offer he had rejected for days.
""As a result ... unemployment benefits were cut off for thousands of people across America, assistance for health care was cut off across America, thousands of federal employees were furloughed," Durbin said.
"Doctors faced the prospect of a 21 percent cut in Medicare payments, and federal flood insurance programs had also lapsed with Monday's expiration of an earlier stopgap bill that passed late last year.
"Democrats promised to retroactively restore unemployment benefits and health care subsidies for the unemployed under the COBRA program. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood ordered furloughed employees back to work Wednesday. (AP)
"Bunning bends, accepts deal on jobless benefits. Roll Call reports:
"Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) Tuesday night abandoned his one-man filibuster of a one-month extension to unemployment benefits and other programs.
"In the end Bunning agreed to a deal allowing him one vote on an amendment to pay for the bill's $10 billion cost. That proposal was offered by Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) last Thursday at the start of his filibuster, but Bunning rejected it because he feared his amendment would not pass.
"At 7:45 PM ET, Harry Reid's office released the following statement -- watch Bunning's floor remarks below.
""There has been a lot of attention over the last few days on the stalemate in the Senate. That attention is warranted. People deserve to know what their leaders are doing here - or, in this case, what some refuse to do - and how that affects their lives.
""So now that we've reached an agreement, let's recap briefly what just happened here.
""Nearly a week ago, with unemployment and health benefits about to expire for tens of thousands of out-of-work Nevadans, Democrats tried to extend those benefits for a short time while a longer solution could be worked out. And we offered Republicans an up-or-down vote on their response to this emergency. They said no.
""After days and days of delay, Democrats just now offered Republicans the exact same up-or-down vote on their proposed response to this emergency. This time, they said yes.
""What happened in between? Hardworking Nevadans - people who want to work but can't find a job - lost their lifelines, their economic security and their peace of mind.
""In between the time Republicans rejected a vote on their plan and the time they decided to take that offer,
"· Thousands needlessly lost their benefits.
· Highway projects were put on hold and the thousands of men and women working on them were furloughed without pay.
· Lending to small businesses was frozen.
· And the reimbursement rate for doctors who treat our senior citizens was cut by a fifth.
""And for what? For no good reason.
""Republicans had an idea for how to pay for these benefits. We disagreed, but we wanted to give them a vote and let the majority of Senators decide democratically. That's the way this body was built to work.
""But some were more interested in making a partisan point, or scoring political points, even if unemployed Americans were caught in the crossfire.
""If citizens want to know what's clogging up Washington - if they want to know what's standing between them and the help they need - they need to look no further than to the irresponsible stubbornness from the other side - and to the inexcusable silence of those who enabled it."
Vote against irreseponsible stubbornness and against inexcusable silence. Elect Democrat Stepp to the U.S. House KY-05!