Senate squabbling threatens jobless bill

Some unemployment benefits, set to expire this weekend, fail to get extended as lawmakers argue.

By Kim Peterson Feb 26, 2010 1:50PM

Washington, D.C. © Bilderbuch/Design Pics/CorbisThe U.S. Senate: bickering until the very end.

Squabbling senators were unable to extend unemployment benefits for laid-off workers, many of which are set to expire over the weekend, the Associated Press reports.

Problem is that no one could agree on how to pay for the added expense.


The House was able to make a decision, passing a bill that extends the benefits for one month while they sort things out, according to the AP. But senators were not so united. Actually, there was just one senator, Jim Bunning of Kentucky, who presented the most opposition.

The bill would add $10 billion to the budget deficit, which Bunning said was unacceptable (that $10 billion, by the way, is 1/160th of the projected budget deficit for this year).

"If we can't find $10 billion somewhere for a bill that everybody in this body supports, we will never pay for anything," Bunning said, according to the AP. Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois said we should borrow the money, adding that the country's economy is doing so badly that the move is justified.

I understand pushing for more fiscal accountability, but is this the right bill for Bunning to take a stand on? After all, we're talking about unemployment funding for laid-off workers, the ones whose initial 26 weeks of benefits have expired.

We're talking about help with the expensive COBRA payments that laid-off families make to continue receiving health insurance.

The bill would also extend a loan program for small businesses and stop a 21% cut in Medicare payments. It would also extend a satellite television license that broadcasts local stations to 1 million rural residents.

So is this all political theater? Yes. Even Bunning admitted the extensions will likely pass eventually. But Bunning added a little zing to the drama Thursday, unloading a choice curse word on Democrats who wanted him to drop his opposition.

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