Friday, June 25, 2010

"flipping off millions"

John Cole: It’s A Debate Who Is to Blame!

Your liberal media:

Legislation to extend unemployment subsidies for hundreds of thousands of Americans who have exhausted their jobless benefits teetered on the edge of collapse on Thursday, as Senate Democrats and Republicans traded bitter accusations about who was to blame for an eight-week impasse.

Senate Republicans and a lone Democrat, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, joined forces to filibuster the bill in a procedural vote on Thursday. Visibly frustrated, the majority leader, Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, said he would move on to other business next week because he saw little chance of winning over any Republican votes.

The vote was 57 to 41, with the Democrats falling three short of the 60 votes needed to advance the measure.

Yes. They are busy trading accusations. Who are we to judge or state why the bill failed!

Way to go, New York Times.

For casual news consumers hoping to know what happened with the Senate's tax-extenders/jobs bill yesterday afternoon, perusing the headlines won't necessarily help.

The NYT's headline read, "Congress Fails to Pass an Extension of Jobless Aid." That's true, but incomplete. The lead paragraph told readers, "Senate Democrats and Republicans traded bitter accusations about who was to blame for an eight-week impasse," which doesn't actually convey who was responsible.

The WaPo headline read, "Senate again rejects expanded spending package," which also only tells part of the story. Worse, the lead paragraph doesn't mention the party responsible for rejecting the bill at all.

The LAT gets it right: "Senate GOP blocks jobless aid extension."

Senate Republicans on Thursday once again blocked legislation to reinstate long-term unemployment benefits for people who have exhausted their aid, prolonging a stalemate that has left more than a million people without federal help.

With the Senate apparently paralyzed by partisan gridlock, the fate of the aid, as well as tax breaks for businesses and $16 billion in aid for cash-strapped states, remains unclear.... Republican lawmakers -- joined by Democrat Ben Nelson of Nebraska -- maintained a unified front to sustain a filibuster of the $110-billion bill. The vote was 57 to 41; the majority was three short of the 60 needed to cut off debate and bring the bill to a final vote. [...]

"If there were ever evidence that this is the party of no, this is it," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who added that several governors would be arriving in Washington next week to make the case for the bill to help states, businesses and those who have been out of work more than six months. [...]

It was the third time in two weeks that Democrats failed to circumvent unified GOP opposition, despite making a series of changes to accommodate complaints about deficit spending.

Here's the roll call. Note that Lieberman rejoined the majority; Nelson joined a unanimous Republican caucus; and Sens. Byrd (D-W.Va.) and Murkowski (R-Alaska) did not vote, and could not have shifted the outcome.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who helped add $5 trillion to the national debt during the Bush/Cheney years, said Republicans had to kill the economic legislation because the extended unemployment benefits, at a cost of about $30 billion, were deficit financed -- despite the fact that extended unemployment benefits are routinely deficit financed.

There's no real doubt, or even debate, about the consequences of failure here -- millions of jobless Americans will lose already-meager benefits, which will mean less spending and a weaker economy. Hundreds of thousands of jobs will be lost. Businesses that were counting on tax breaks won't get them.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs issued a statement late yesterday, noting, "By blocking an up or down vote on this legislation, Republicans in the Senate obstructed a common-sense package that would save jobs, extend tax cuts for businesses and provide relief for American families who have suffered through the worst economic downfall since the Great Depression, even after Democrats offered multiple compromises to gain Republican support for the bill."

As for the next step, the bill, for now, is dead. If voters in Maine -- a state that will be particularly hard hit by Republicans' decision -- start making some phone calls to their senators, the bill may be brought back.

With Senate Republicans having killed an important jobs bill yesterday afternoon, it seems like a good time to take a quick stroll down memory lane -- to about four months ago.

The Senate was getting ready to approve a jobs bill that extended unemployment benefits to jobless Americans. It would have increased the deficit a little, but under the circumstances, that was considered routine and uncontroversial.

Sen. Jim Bunning, the Kentucky Republican who has occasionally seemed mentally unstable, took a bold, lonely, ridiculous stand -- there could be no jobs bill if it increased the deficit. Bunning launched what was, in effect, a one-man filibuster, which came to be known as the "Bunning Blockade."

The right-wing Kentuckian soon became the subject of widespread ridicule, and a symbol of all that is wrong with the modern-day Senate. It didn't help when Bunning flipped off a journalist who dared to ask the senator to explain his position, nor when Bunning told one of his colleagues, imploring him to be reasonable, "Tough sh*t."

After about a week, Bunning ended his little tantrum, the bill advanced, benefits to the jobless were extended, and thousands of furloughed workers Bunning had sent home without pay were able to get back to work.

But let's pause to appreciate what's become evident since -- Bunning's absurd behavior has spread like a cancer, to the point that every single member of the Senate Republican conference, and one confused conservative Democrat, is taking the exact same position he took in late February and early March.

We've gone from one erratic senator flipping off a reporter to an entire party caucus flipping off millions of Americans. We've gone from a seemingly unstable lawmaker telling a colleague, "Tough sh*t" to the entire Republican conference telling the whole country, "Tough sh*t."

In the late winter, Jim Bunning was something of a laughing stock. In the early summer, we have an entire Party of Bunnings.

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