Bunning’s Benefits Blockade and the End of Civility

If this is what happens over unemployment benefits, imagine cutting back Social Security and Medicare.

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By Mary Kate Cary, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

After writing yesterday's blog about civility and partisanship, I learned hours later that Sen. Jim Bunning had made an obscene gesture at a reporter from ABC News. He did so in the midst of his standoff with Senate Democrats over unemployment benefits for folks who have lost their jobs, because he believes the bill should be paid for under the current budget, and it is not. (Remember that the president signed "pay-go" into law two weeks ago; this is one of the first bills considered since then.) As a result, unemployment benefits and COBRA health coverage are being held up for hundreds of thousands of Americans.

This story involves three things: 1. Uncivil, rude behavior by a member of Congress that has no place in the political debate; 2. continued runaway spending that further increases the budget; and 3. denying help for real families who need it.

With the exception of the ABC reporter, every person involved in this story is an incumbent in Congress. No wonder polls show that voters want to throw them all out! This is why people are angry. They're disgusted by all of it.

I don't understand Bunning's crude behavior, and I don't understand why the legislation isn't paid for, especially if everyone agrees that it's necessary. None of it makes sense.

One more thought: This tug of war we're seeing over this one piece of legislation--let's-give-benefits-to-folks-who-really-need-help compassion vs. let's-pay-for-it-first fiscal responsibility--is only going to get worse. This time it's just a small extension of temporary unemployment benefits. Imagine how bad the fighting's going to be when we have to rein in Social Security and Medicare. Yikes.

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