Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Government Shutdown by Republicans

Why is Senator Jim Bunning Blocking an Extension of Unemployment Benefits to 500,000, Transportation Programs that Employ others, and Medicare Payments to Docs?

This is the grossest misuse of the filibuster. In this case, Bunning was the sole Senator objecting to the bill. His stated objection is that it was not paid for.... Interesting that his party voted down the "Pay as You Go" bill proposed by the Democrats which would have required that equivalent cost cutting or program cutting accompanies each bill.

Rumors are that he also wanted another tax reduction for the wealthiest Americans which is not a bill being brought to the Senate floor. Some think that his filibuster is meant to force the Democrats to give him the tax cuts he wants.

Whatever his reasons, this is not the majority rule that the Republicans demanded between 2000 and 2008 -- an "up or down vote." He has just caused 100,000 Americans to lose their benefits immediately. About 400,000 more will lose their unemployment benefits in two weeks according to the Department of Labor.

If they lose their federal benefits now, even if an extension bill goes through, they might have to reapply which will delay their next check by 3 weeks to 2 months in some states. Many of these are people with families to support.

Senator Dick Durbin proposed making the Senator actually perform his filibuster by standing and talking from Thursday until whenever he would give up.
Many young Senators were prepared to attend the all-night session. This was started on Thursday February 25th, but the unprepared Senator Banning resorted to yelling obscenities at other lawmakers.

Senator Bob Corker
of Tennessee took his defense and reminded the others in attendance that Senator Bunning was 87 years old. Senator Durbin agreed to end the session shortly before midnight, perhaps before Bunning would have a serious health crisis of his own.

Meanwhile, the Republican Senators don't seem to care about an additional 500,000 jobless people will lose ther health insurance subsidies under the Cobra program during the month of March. I wonder if Senator Bunning has considered that there might be some children awaiting life saving surgeries? He is so determined to make his point....

This bill also blocks an extension of Medicare pay increases to docs, which will lower their reimbursements by 21%. Many docs will simply stop seeing Medicare patients which will mean that many seniors will be without the docs they have come to know and to trust. -- Wasn't it the Republicans who keep voting against all the Health Reform bills because "We want Americans to be able to keep their insurance and to keep their docs!" And, didn't they scream out in the late summer, "We don't want our seniors to have their benefits cut!"

Well, all Americans should know that it is the Republicans who are voting against Medicare reimbursement to doctors and voting against the extension of Unemployment, but this is not all.

There is also an extension of the Highway Trust Fund which employs 2,000 employees. These employees have been furloughed since Monday without pay and without the ability to sign up for Unemployment since they are still, technically, employed. The association of State Highway and Transportation officials said states are losing more than $153 million a day in federal reimbursements.

This is only one case, but Republicans this last year have used the filibuster (see chart on cloture voting) more than any other administration. To give you an idea of the changes involved, Democrats held up a total of 10 of George Bush's judicial appointees. Last year one Senator held up 50 of President Obama's appointees because he objected to the President's consideration of Boeing for government contracts. This is Senator Richard Shelby of Lockheed Martin Corporation, oh, excuse me, of Alabama.

Cloture Voting chart thanks to Yglesias of Think Progress. Note that last year Republicans almost doubled even the blockade used during the Bill Clinton presidency. Politics is one thing, but this is affecting millions of Americans in a very harmful way. Those who lose unemployment benefits may have no where to go. The children and seniors who have no health providers to go to may suffer or die.

Perhaps this is a reason to ask for impeachment, not because some political leader cheated on his wife -- but for those who cheat on the American people!

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