The Republican Party has been the target of criticism for becoming the party of "no" recently. But lame-duck Republican senator Jim Bunning has become a one-man "no" show.


 


 

The Republican Party has been the target of criticism for becoming the party of "no" recently.

But lame-duck Republican senator Jim Bunning has become a one-man "no" show.

Bunning (R-Ky.) is certainly not very understanding of the plight of people who are in need of unemployment payments considering he will be unemployed when his term expires. Of course, after retiring from Major League Baseball and the Senate, he'll have all the benefits he needs.

All of these other people would waste hundreds of dollars over the next three months on things like food and mortgage payments. Thank goodness Bunning is putting an end to that madness.

After all, the fiscally responsible senator was a big supporter of a $636 billion defense spending bill in December. But now in March, he finds $10 billion in benefits to people who would rather be working and paying their own way to be wasteful.

The former Phillies pitcher says he believes the Senate should identify $10.3 billion in spending cuts before they approve the 30-day extension of benefits.

The troops are lucky Bunning wasn't able to require the Senate to find $636 billion in cuts before allowing their bill to pass.

The vote is currently one to 99. Democrats hate what Bunning is doing because of how it is affecting people who should have the benefits. After all, this isn't welfare.

Unemployment is an insurance policy that every employer is required to help fund.

Republicans don't like this move either. I don't think this is a good cop-bad cop scenario where they express their displeasure publicly and privately extol his virtues.

If nothing else makes him look bad, kicking hard-working people after they already got knocked down by an economic storm he helped create, would peg out the rageometer.

Don't think his antics won't appear in a lot of Democratic campaign literature this fall.

But Bunning isn't letting the bipartisan unpopularity of his actions affect his resolve.

Because of Senate rules requiring unanimous consent to extend benefits, Bunning has been able to single-handedly prevent the distribution of benefits to people who have been left without a job thanks to the worst economy in decades. Beyond that, his actions have also brought 41 federal highway projects to a grinding halt due to a lack of inspectors and forced a 10-day delay in Medicare payments to doctors and hospitals.

Bunning understandably doesn't get it.

He thinks these unemployed people should start their own charitable foundations. That's what Bunning did after being elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1996. Since the creation of the nonprofit, more than a half-million dollars have filled the coffers under the guise of benefiting charities in Kentucky.

The board - consisting of Bunning's wife, an old friend and a former congressional aide who has helped gain earmarked funds for lobbyist clients - has allocated almost $135,000 to charities like churches Bunning has attended.

Of course, the primary beneficiary of the charity has been Bunning himself, who has received $180,000 for his one hour of work per week. Charity starts at home, after all.

The framers of the Constitution were very wise to establish safeguards even against the whim of elected majorities. The filibuster when used by a well-meaning senator can cool the jets of a runaway legislative train. That is one of the designs that make our legislative system work.

Unanimous consent was designed the same way. It prevents a majority from merely continuing programs without the passage of a formal bill.

The problem the framers had was their assumption that these weapons would never fall into the hands of those who were not responsible or intelligent enough to use them appropriately.

They never anticipated the election of Jim Bunning. Thousands of unemployed people whose benefits just ran out wish they would have.

Kent Bush is publisher of the Augusta (Kan.) Gazette.

The opinions expressed in this column are those of the writer and not necessarily those of the newspaper.