Help Defend This Taxpayer’s Hero
March 12, 2010 by Chip Wood
I had planned to write this week about the irritating idiocy most of us will encounter this weekend: The biannual changing of the clocks, necessitated by Daylight Savings Time.
Who the heck first proposed that we “spring forward” anyway? I think it’s a terrible idea. Among many other things wrong with it, we end up sending our children off to school when it’s pitch black outside. That can’t be as safe as waiting until the sun is out, can it?
But that rant will have to wait. Because something happened last week that got me so mad that—as my mother used to say—I could chew nails and spit bullets.
I’m talking about the utterly unfair and vicious attacks the Democrats in Congress, supported by their allies in the liberal media, launched against former baseball great Jim Bunning. In case you missed it, here’s what happened.
As you know, whenever some sensitive soul discovers someone suffering in America, someone in Congress will promise to solve the problem. And an amazing number of times (something like 999 times out of 1,000), the solution requires throwing taxpayer money at it.
That’s what happened two weeks ago, when a bunch of Democrats learned that many of their constituents had run out of unemployment benefits. In most states, such payouts last a maximum of 18 months. When the legislation was originally approved, the thinking was that a year and half would be plenty of time for someone to find a job. Assuming, that is, that he or she looked hard enough and wasn’t too fussy about the perks and pay he or she would receive.
But as you know, this isn’t just any recession we’re in. At the very least, it’s the Great Recession. Many commentators are even more pessimistic; I know several who say we’ve entered what they call the Greater Depression.
However you describe it, the sad fact is that millions of jobs have disappeared in this country. And a whole lot of them aren’t coming back any time soon. Doesn’t matter if you built cars in Detroit for decades, and your father did before you and your grandfather before that. Color that baby gone, my friend.
So jobs are hard to find, unemployment benefits are running out and some voters are getting worried. Why, this sounds like a job for Congressman! And before you could say “roll call,” the Democrats had drafted legislation to extend unemployment benefits by six more months, at a cost of $10 billion.
There was just one teensy little problem. According to legislation the Democrats themselves had passed one month earlier, the legislation was illegal. Remember when the House and Senate, with the glowing approval of the White House, passed something called “pay as you go” (pay-go)? The measure said simply that Congress could not approve any new Federal spending unless it found the money to fund it from somewhere else in the budget.
Since this year’s budget comes to more than $3.5 trillion, and will add at least another $1.4 trillion to the federal deficit, that requirement didn’t seem terribly unreasonable. In no time at all, pay-go became the law of the land.
Ah, but then up came the subject of all those poor unemployed voters. Surely they deserve a little extra consideration, don’t they? We can make an exception for them, can’t we?
So Harry Reid (D-Nev.), the Majority Leader of the U.S. Senate, asked for “unanimous consent” to approve a bill giving them another $10 billion in benefits. Most of the time, when asked for unanimous consent, everyone in the Senate meekly says “sure thing, Harry.”
In this case, the dirty deed would be done without the necessity of a potentially embarrassing recorded vote. Say what you will, our legislators aren’t stupid; they know they’ll face reelection some day. Why give a potential opponent the opportunity to ask, “Why did you, Mr. Incumbent, vote to violate the very pay-go law you passed a month earlier?”
Our august leaders clearly expected the measure to be quickly and quietly approved. After all, the skids had been properly greased. The leadership of the so-called opposition had promised to vote “aye.” What could go wrong?
But the problem with unanimous consent is that it has to be unanimous. And this time, one guy said “I object.” Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) refused to go along to get along. And that was all it took to throw a monkey wrench in the works.
“Obstructionism,” screamed Reid. “An outrage,” cried Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va). “Unfair,” said Dick Durbin (D-Ill.). “Political games,” said the White House. Even his fellow Republicans joined the pile-on. “[His] views do not represent a majority of the Republican caucus,” said Susan Collins—a RINO from Maine who votes way to the left of Bunning.
The TV networks were on the story like crows on road kill. The three major networks all decided (independently, of course) to broadcast the Senate proceedings live as Bunning blocked the bill for a second time. ABC News even tried one of their famous “ambush” interviews as the senator was getting into a private elevator in the Capitol.
But here’s what no one in the mainstream media bothered to tell their gullible audience. Reid could have gotten the money any time he wanted, just by calling for a recorded vote. Bingo, the measure could have been passed in a minute.
But Reid was having more fun—and scoring more points, he thought—by exposing Republican obstructionism.
Rather than bow to the pressure, Bunning suggested a compromise: Let’s fund this thing by taking $10 billion from all of that unspent “stimulus” money. Reid wouldn’t even allow a vote to be taken on Bunning’s amendment.
USA Today offered Bunning the opportunity to tell his side. In “Why I took a stand,” which ran on March 4, the Senator said: “For too long, both Republicans and Democrats have treated the taxpayers’ money as a slush fund that does not ever end. At some point, the madness has to stop….We are on the verge of a tipping point where America’s debt will bring down our economy.”
And then he said, “If the Senate cannot find $10 billion to pay for a measure we all support, we will never pay for anything.”
Long before he entered politics, Bunning had an all-star career as a Major League Baseball (MLB) pitcher—a career that includes a perfect game in 1964. When he retired after 17 seasons he had the second-highest total of career strikeouts in MLB history. He was inducted into the MLB Hall of Fame in 1996.
After his retirement he became a state senator in his beloved Kentucky. He was elected to House in 1986 and the U.S. Senate in 1998. He announced last year that, after 24 years in Washington, he was retiring from politics. At 79 years old, he’s earned the right to sit on his front porch for a while.
Bunning may not have been the fiercest fighter we had on the Hill. But he sure did the right thing this time. We can’t let the left pillory him for it.
If you agree, why not tell him so? Call his office at (202)-224-4343 or click here to send him an email.
Thanks, Jim. I hope your profile in courage will inspire some of your colleagues to step up to the plate, too. No matter how many bean-balls the left throws at them.
Until next Friday, keep some powder dry.