Why Bunning’s Hold Is Ridiculous

Here is a link to a rundown about what is occurring due to Sen. Bunning’s hold:

  • Unemployment benefits for 400,000 people
  • State reimbursements of $190 million a day
  • Two thousand Federal workers furloughed
  • Construction jobs shut down due to lack of inspectors

Things are supposed to resume later this week, but it’s still a huge bureaucratic mess that I’m sure is causing immense anxiety. Bunning’s rationale is also pretty stupid in light of the big picture: the bill represents about 0.6% of the deficit and is towards universally agreed upon projects. However, his hold isn’t what I find ridiculous, the fact that a minor legislative hiccup caused the derailment is ridiculous.

The last six months or so the Democratic leadership has repeatedly spent all of its time on non-time critical bills and then pushed through required bills during the 11th hour. Whether it’s Bernanke’s reappointment, or attaching the last unemployment extension to the defense spending bill, the messaging is that it must pass or else there will be dire consequences and there is no time for questioning! Of course it’s been known for months or years that there would have to be action by that date and the rush is completely of the leadership’s own making.

I realize that this has long been fairly standard practice and — along with turning legislation into a grab bag of proposals — I find it to be the most pernicious action by Congress and one that helps fatally undermine the entire idea of a Republic. If I were in Congress I would vote against every bill that was stuffed with pork or riders (look at what they attach to the defense and transportation bills sometime) and every bill that was generated with a false sense of urgency. I really wonder how many bills I would even have the option to vote yes on. I find it tunnel visioned to vilify Bunning when he is merely exercising a common procedural tactic. The blame that this led to failure lies solely at the feet of the Senate leadership in particular and Congressional culture in general.

Update: Commenter merkin makes the point that this stuff was in the larger jobs bill that Reid never brought to the floor, so it takes a little fire out. However I still argue that they should have tackled these extensions before they passed the $15 billion jobs bill that wasn’t time critical and requires extensive reconciliation with the house.

Update #2: Commenter The Master says that “hold” is the wrong terminology.

“What Bunning is doing is not a ‘Hold’; a Hold is a specific action taken by a Senator to prevent a hearing for a nominee that requires Senate confirmation. He’s not doing that.

Nor is it a Filibuster, as so many in the MSM and the blogosphere keep calling it. Bunning is simply refusing to allow the bill to move on Unanimous Consent, i.e. he is refusing to vote for it. Unanimous Consent, as the name implies, means all present vote for it and none present vote against it. It is a technique used (generally) for uncontroversial legislation.

The Democratic leadership can easily pass this bill. All they have to do is introduce it to the floor, debate it, possibly consider some amendments to it, and vote on it. Yes, this will take a little time, and your point on the routine creation of false urgency by the leadership (Democrat and Republican) is well taken.”

Author: MIKKEL FISHMAN, Economics Editor