Is Bunning conducting a filibuster?

posted at 1:36 pm on March 2, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

Senator Jim Bunning has both Republicans and Democrats angry this week, thanks to his insistence on objecting to the funding mechanism for an extension of unemployment benefits and highway funds.  Bunning has objected to unanimous consent requests from both parties to move towards a vote for the bill, and has refused to pursue an amendment demanding that the federal government use stimulus funds rather than new borrowing to pay for it.  But the media has reported on this incorrectly almost from the beginning, including Roll Call, which should know better:

Senate Republicans sought Tuesday to insulate themselves from the damage caused by Sen. Jim Bunning’s (R-Ky.) filibuster of a bill that would extend unemployment and health benefits and highway programs.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) took to the floor Tuesday morning to ask that the Senate vote within hours on the bill so that thousands of furloughed federal highway workers could go back to work and the unemployed could see a resumption of their jobless benefits. Bunning’s filibuster, which he kicked off Thursday, caused those provisions to expire Sunday night. The retiring Kentucky Republican wants the measure paid for.
Bunning objected to Collins’ request, as he has to nearly a dozen requests from Democrats for similar rapid resolutions to the standoff.

Senate Republicans sought Tuesday to insulate themselves from the damage caused by Sen. Jim Bunning’s (R-Ky.) filibuster of a bill that would extend unemployment and health benefits and highway programs.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) took to the floor Tuesday morning to ask that the Senate vote within hours on the bill so that thousands of furloughed federal highway workers could go back to work and the unemployed could see a resumption of their jobless benefits. Bunning’s filibuster, which he kicked off Thursday, caused those provisions to expire Sunday night. The retiring Kentucky Republican wants the measure paid for.

Bunning objected to Collins’ request, as he has to nearly a dozen requests from Democrats for similar rapid resolutions to the standoff.

This is not a filibuster, which is a specific procedure in which Senators force debate to continue indefinitely as a means to block a final vote, denying “cloture” to the majority party.  Alternatively, and now somewhat archaically, it also describes an effort by one Senator to just continue talking to stall action.  Bunning is using another mechanism altogether, one that won’t block a final vote, although it will delay it:

As I noted in a previous post, and as is increasingly well known to those who actually are capable of comprehension, Senator Jim Bunning – for the simple reason he wishes it to be paid for – is objecting to a repeated unanimous consent request by Senate Democrats to call up and pass a bill that would temporarily extend unemployment benefits, transportation funding, medicare reimbursement, COBRA subsidies and other expenditures to the tune of another $10 billion or so. Again, Democrats are requesting that each U.S. Senator agree – that is, effectively vote “yes” – to said extension without full consideration or debate on the Senate floor.

Yet, news account after news account of his continued objection to this unanimous consent request report his actions as a filibuster. Politico, Roll Call, Fox News, CNN, and the list goes on and on. And the accusation of filibustering is even worse among Senators and Congressmen, as exemplified by the DCCC Chair, Chris Van Hollen and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. But it simply is not the case that what Mr. Bunning is doing is a filibuster under the rules, as anyone with a rudimentary understanding of the U.S. Senate fully comprehends. …

A filibuster is one of two things. One, an actual filibuster where a Senator gets control of the Senate floor and will yield only for a question while continuing to speak, thereby delaying consideration of a measure. Picture Mr. Smith goes to Washington (if you haven’t seen it, do). Two, a “filibuster” under Rule 22 of the Standing Rules of the Senate whereby debate is continuous unless “cloture” is filed to shut off debate on a measure under consideration and the vote is 3/5ths or more of the Senate. Senate Democrats did not call this bill up to give it floor time. If they had thought it important enough, they could have. Instead, they simply asked for a “UC,” or unanimous consent to pass it. Senator Bunning simply does not wish to give his consent – i.e. he does not want to vote for it.

No one is required to give unanimous consent to any request for it.  Senators normally give it, though, in order to keep business moving.  Withholding unanimous consent simply means that the Senate will have to hold procedural votes that it would otherwise waive in order to finish its work.  That’s not a filibuster.

Furthermore, Bunning’s action is based on the demand by Democrats and the White House to restore the pay-go rule, as Heritage’s Brian Darling explains:

Liberals are up in arms because Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY) is blocking a bill that would extend unemployment benefits, extend health insurance subsidies (COBRA), extend highway funding, increase Medicare reimbursement rates for physicians (Doc Fix), extend a temporary “flood insurance” program and continue aid for small business programs. The bill, H.R. 4691, was introduced and passed the House on February 25th by a voice vote. When the bill came up in the Senate, Sen. Bunning objected and requested a vote to offset the estimated $10 billion cost of this bill over the next month. With the two words “I object” Sen. Bunning may save taxpayers $10 billion and Sen. Bunning has provided America a stark example of how Members of Congress refuse to pay for new spending initiatives.

Bunning said of the bill “if we can’t find $10 billion to pay for it, we’re not going to pay for anything.” A month ago, Congress passed something called pay-as-you-go (PAYGO) budgeting when they increased the the statutory limit of allowable national debt to $14.29 trillion, a $1.9 trillion increase. The current PAYGO rules are loaded with exceptions and loopholes, yet many saw the new PAYGO rules as a step in the right direction to restrain some out of control spending. The problem is that Congress seems to waive the PAYGO rule rather than offset one cent of new spending. …

Basically, liberals in Congress love the idea of PAYGO, yet they refuse to enforce the statutory requirements that all new spending be offset. They do this by designating all new spending as an “Emergency Designation.” This is feel good politics at its worst, because the left can claim they are for PAYGO, yet PAYGO has yet to restrain any spending. Furthermore, the vote on PAYGO in the House helped pave the way for a $1.9 trillion increase in the debt limit. Therefore one can argue that PAYGO actually increased spending in the Congress.

Bunning isn’t even opposing the bill, or at least not its purpose.  He’s objecting to the financing, which violates the pay-go rules Democrats just imposed.

Pay attention to the misreporting on this issue, because it will happen again when Republicans begin using the same process to slow down reconciliation.  Coburn threatened to withhold unanimous consent on bill readings during the ObamaCare debate last December, and wound up forcing the clerk to read the bill aloud for hours.  If Democrats decide to cram ObamaCare through reconciliation, it won’t just be Bunning withholding unanimous consent, and not just on ObamaCare, either.

Bunning isn’t filibustering.  If Democrats want to get to a vote, they can with or without unanimous consent.  If their bill is well supported, it will eventually pass.  But after the scolding a few weeks ago from Obama on deficit spending and the Democrats’ victory dance on pay-go, the real reason Democrats are unhappy about Bunning’s action isn’t because it’s a filibuster, but because it shows their hypocrisy on deficit spending.  And the American media needs to do its research on Senate procedure before declaring the withholding of unanimous consent a “filibuster.”

Update: The Boss Emeritus weighs in on the Bunning debate, too:

Some weak-willed Republicans don’t want the GOP to be cast as the heartless Scrooges taking away “temporary” unemployment benefits that have become enshrined permanently. …

Sen. Bunning’s move to unmask pay-go hypocrisy has been dismissed by the White House as “irrational.” His GOP colleagues are backing away.

But if Republicans can’t stand up and question the permanent Nanny State and can’t point out the unintended consequences of liberal intentions without folding like card tables, what good are they?

Good question.


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Comment pages: 1 2

Obama and the Democrat-controlled Congress are spending this nation into bankruptcy.

Thank you Senator Bunning for taking a principled stand.

The journey of a thousand miles begins beneath one’s feet. ~~ Lao-tzu

RedPepper on March 2, 2010 at 3:55 PM

per Ed’s post:

No one is required to give unanimous consent to any request for it. Senators normally give it, though, in order to keep business moving.

So, by Ed’s own words, Bunning’s action is “abnormal.” I leave you to revel in the trivial distinction between “abnormal” and “irregular.”

commissar on March 2, 2010 at 4:04 PM

If Bunnings cared so much about paying for spending bills why didnt he vote for PayGo? Please.
TruUSA on March 2, 2010 at 3:33 PM

I don’t know for sure but I’m guessing it’s the same reason why I oppose ‘deficit commissions’: They’re just excuses to raise taxes without cutting spending (and absolve congress of their responsibility make to hard choices, but I digress).

As for the rest of your hysterical screed – “Transportation workers” are not losing their taxpayer funded jobs. At most they’ll be docked a few days pay, but even that is questionable. So you can stop your hand wringing (unless you’re a paid operative for O.F.A. in which case, carry on, but find some venue where people will fall for your scripted sob story.)

Buy Danish on March 2, 2010 at 4:05 PM

How about if all the Republicans join him – and let him conduct an orchestra.

honsy on March 2, 2010 at 1:39 PM

Now that would be a show. Why don’t all the Republicans join him and bring the senate freak show to a halt?
(In other news: Every day he eats on this is another day ObowMao care isn’t rammed through)

Blacksmith8 on March 2, 2010 at 4:34 PM

2003 Bunning press release:
————-
U.S. Senator Jim Bunning today announced that legislation to extend temporary unemployment benefits for an additional five months has passed the United States Congress. The legislation, which was unanimously approved yesterday by the Senate and by a vote of 416-4 today in the House, would also provide a temporary 13-week extension of unemployment benefits for all individuals who exhaust their traditional benefits before June 1, 2003. “The 108th Congress is off to a solid start,” said Bunning. “This is hopeful news for our most needy families in Kentucky. By approving this legislation we will help those folks who are currently without work continue to make ends meet until they can find new employment.” Passage of this legislation means that there will be no lapse in assistance for the nearly 10,000 Kentuckians who have filed claims so far for extended benefits. The last extension expired on December 28, 2002. President Bush is expected to sign the bill tomorrow, which means the next payment to states can still be made on Friday, January 10, as originally scheduled.
———

ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha

Dave Rywall on March 2, 2010 at 4:35 PM

As far as the Rs supporting Bunning, I would hold my fire on those known to be stalwart, be suspicious of the go along crowd of Rs, and only get upset with those that we know are calling for him to subside.

All the Rs can’t work against everything all the time. IMO, they are point men for various issues. Inhofe did it for AGW. DeMint has been doing it for health care. If all of the Senate Republican good guys who have proven themselves in the past expended their energy on every issue, then they would be at the point of exhaustion.

INC on March 2, 2010 at 4:42 PM

I’m annoyed at the GOP in the Senate. McConnell should be up there decrying how much our debt ceiling has risen and promises to the taxpayers regarding spending control are just empty words. Kyl should be admonishing the Democrats for this permanent nanny state instead of meaningful solutions like tax cuts and cuts to discretionary spending. McCain should be lambasting the Democrats for being spending whores while Americans have the be thrifty.

This is a real opportunity to show the mettle we are made of, to draw clear distinctions. If the Dems say, “what you oppose unemployment extension?” you counter with how that’s a stopgap at best and not a real solution; it masks the problem. Get with the programme, guys! Grow a pair!

For the love of God, the Democrats are handing you opportunities and giving you the stick you can beat them with. GRAB IT!

linlithgow on March 2, 2010 at 4:45 PM

Bunning is doing the same thing Franken did, isn’t he?

lsheldon on March 2, 2010 at 4:55 PM

Would he vote for PayGo? No, maybe not. (‘Struth I don’t know.)

But if somebody passed a law I didn’t like over my objections, I probably would require that they obey that law.

lsheldon on March 2, 2010 at 4:57 PM

Bunning is showing he might be the only one sobered up from the unbelievable spending to pay for something especially with 400,000,000,000 left in the stimulus. That would still allow the demonrats 390,000,000.000 to rig the coming election. This is quicky becoming insane.

volsense on March 2, 2010 at 6:15 PM

From The Corner:

Bunning Doubles Down? [Daniel Foster]

Swampland’s Jay Newton-Small tweets that Sen. Jim Bunning (R., Ky.) has placed a blanket hold on all Obama nominees.

03/02 06:04 PMShare

INC on March 2, 2010 at 6:55 PM

DanMan on March 2, 2010 at 2:58 PM

Thanks for that link. Credit to Kyl and Cornyn.

Bugler on March 2, 2010 at 3:02 PM

DeMint spoke up for him too.

YehuditTX on March 2, 2010 at 7:39 PM

Dave Rywall on March 2, 2010 at 4:35 PM

Let’s see… this was about paygo legislation and in 2003 was it about paygo? No! Nope! I don’t think so. Gee Drywall, get your act together.

Vince on March 2, 2010 at 10:08 PM

NewsBusters: Media Erroneously Charge Sen. Bunning with Filibustering; He Simply Wanted Debate and a Vote
http://newsbusters.org/blogs/ken-shepherd/2010/03/03/media-erroneously-charge-sen-bunning-filibustering-he-simply-wanted-de

StewartIII on March 3, 2010 at 9:00 PM

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