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Republican senator foils unemployment benefits. House Democrats block jobs bill. Call it gridlock.

Kentucky Republican Jim Bunning

Jim Bunning used to be a hero. In fact he's in the Baseball Hall of Fame -- only the second pitcher in history to get 1,000 strikeouts and 100 wins in both the American (Detroit Tigers) and National (Philadelphia Phillies) leagues.

This week he proved the goat, the only one of 100 senators to block a 30-day extension of unemployment benefits. Without it, for an estimated 1.2 million Americans, benefits expire Sunday.

Actually, some think Bunning has a point -- he wants the Senate to pay for the $10-billion, 30-day band-aid by dipping into the $400 billion in unspent stimulus funds -- instead of adding to the federal deficit.

But Bunning's reputation as a loose cannon precedes him, and he had few defenders even among Republican colleagues. A loose-lipped maverick who once accused an opponent of....

...resembling one of Saddam Hussein's sons, Bunning was forced to announce his retirement after his colleague, Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, refused to endorse him for re-election.

To pressure Bunning, Illinois Democrat Dick Durbin took to the floor to read stats from Kentucky, whose unemployment rate stands at 10.7%, with Magoffin County at 21.4%.

Unmoved, the two-term senator did not exactly endear himself to colleagues. When Oregon Democrat Jeff Merkley begged him to reconsider, Bunning said, "Tough ...," a violation of Senate decorum even in these tough partisan times. Merkley said he is “deeply disturbed” that Bunning can be so “disconnected from the challenges” of working Americans.

Maybe he should tell it to Democrats in the House. There the Congressional Black Caucus is threatening to block a $15-billion jobs bill -- you know the one pushed by President Obama and in a rare moment of bipartisanship embraced by freshman Massachusetts Republican Scott Brown.

But black lawmakers argue that with most of the funds in the bill earmarked to a tax credit for small businesses that add new workers or increase salaries, the measure as more a tax gimme than a boon to the unemployed. They want more direct aid.

Still, you'd think with the national unemployment at 9.7% and unemployment among African Americans at 16.7%, they would accept compromise. Apparently not.

"In no way does $15 billion, a tax-cut bill, create jobs for the chronically unemployed," California Democrat Barbara Lee, who chairs the CBC, told reporters.

That's why they call it gridlock.

-- Johanna Neuman

Photo credit: Associated Press

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Comments () | Archives (5)

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These politicians are totally clueless to the needs of the people they are supposed to serve. They live in a bubble. Perhaps we need to outsource their jobs to people that will work for less like everyone else does.

We need real solutions, not another faux effort to give tax cuts to businesses. If you want to help businesses, provide stimulus money to help businesses expand. Include an incentive to hire people with every expansion grant. Add services.... add employees. Add equipment, add employees. How hard is that?

The problem is how selfish these public servants are. They only serve themselves, certainly not the public interest. I certainly wouldn't hire anyone who is that arrogant. Send them all packing.

There is that paper bioofule tax cut take back they could use to fund the benefits, the one that was in the bipartisan jobs bill Reid dumped.

Oh, guess Obama put that in his health care proposal, the one that isn't a law or even a bill yet, to help pay for the costs of the health care bill, so it would have a zero deficit effect for the first ten years, and they could use the Budget reconciliation process to pass it.

Shows that health care reform we don't want is more important to Democrats then jobs.

They should just use the stimulus funds, they say the jobless benefits are an emergency but are unwilling to use the stimulus funds to take care of them.

"In a filibuster that lasted until nearly midnight Thursday, Bunning insisted that the government use unspent stimulus funds. Democrats balked, saying that nearly all the stimulus funds already are committed to specific projects or tax cuts."

Did Bunning stand up against any of the previous administration's requests for funds for military actions, etc., while calling for deficit protection? Let's take a look at Bunning's fiscal responsible record.

"In no way does $15 billion, a tax-cut bill, create jobs for the chronically unemployed."

But handing out checks to the "chronically" unemployed aka black folk does create jobs??

Barbara Lee and the Black Caucus need to stop lobbying Congress for a free meal ticket. Americans are in this recession together and will have to find ways to overcome it. Non-blacks are unemployed too but instead of begging for additional governmental benefits, they are applying for jobs and going to school to learn a trade.

God bless the Republicans.


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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