With Jim Bunning Gone, Tom Coburn Steps Up to the Plate
Somebody has to make sure millions of Americans don’t get those unemployment benefits:
Due to the timing of the blockade, benefits could expire on April 5, a situation that would not be remedied for a week while the Senate is out of town. Senators will return from their Easter break on April 12.
When Bunning blocked the benefits extension in early March, government programs funded by the money — which includes everything from construction work, unemployment payments and doctor’s fees — were only shut down for a matter of hours. This time, with the expiration coming on April 5 while the Senate is in recess, the shutdown could last for days.
Coburn and the Republicans are making the same argument this time that Bunning made back on March 1: if Democrats want to extend the benefits, they need to find a way to pay for them. On the Senate floor, Coburn said he was blocking the benefits on behalf that old political standby, the average Joe.
“You see it is easy to cite the deficit as an excuse to cut off unemployed Americans’ food and rent money spend other people’s money,” Coburn said on the Senate floor, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Especially if your own pantry is full of food, and you know exactly where the mortgage and car payments are coming from you’re sitting up here with a good pension, drawing a good salary.”
Defending his blockade on the floor today, Coburn turned to the other political stand by, placing a giant photo of an adorable little girl from Oklahoma on an easel next to him as he went on and on about how he was blocking the benefits extension for her.
Democrats have said that the $9 billion benefits extension is emergency spending, and therefore should be funded with deficit spending. They have pledged to pass a new permanent jobless benefits bill that will fund the process through normal spending channels.
So what? We’re not talking about a true emergency here, like we had back in the previous administration when un-paid-for funds were urgently needed to ease the suffering of multimillionaires and to pay for a war that Exxon-Mobil, Northrup-Grumman, Halliburton, and Blackwater were relying on to get those defense contracts and keep their senior staff happy. Anyone can understand the disastrous consequences that could flow from losing a big contract bid. But what’s the big deal if mom and dad don’t get their unemployment checks for a week, or two, or three? What’s the worst that could happen?