1. Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY) has been at the center of the political storm over the past week with his refusal to allow unanimous consent on the first spending bill Congress took up after they loudly announced new pay as you go rules.
The bill, H.R. 4691, was introduced and passed the House on February 25th by a voice vote. It 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.
However, the bill also contained a waiver effectively ignoring the pay as you go rules enacted just a few weeks ago for all of this new spending.
Various media outlets have reported Bunning’s actions as a one man “filibuster” effectively denying unemployed Americans with benefits and forcing federal transportation workers to go on unpaid furloughs.
Even Democrat politicians like DCCC Chairman Chris Van Hollen and Senator Kirstin Gillebrand of New York have erroneously repeated Bunning’s actions as a filibuster.
Senate rules require all Senators present to agree (known as unanimous consent) in order to perform certain action on the Senate floor.
Bunning has simply refused to grant his consent for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to bring the $10 billion bill to the Senate floor unless Reid follows the recently passed pay as you go legislation and identifies where the extra $10 billion is coming from.
Bunning has even offered several ways for Congressional Democrats to pay for the extra spending like rescinding $10 billion from last year’s bloated stimulus package that has yet to be spent.
Unfortunately, Bunning’s stand is being undermined by members of the Republican Party who believe Bunning’s stand against further unregulated spending is casting the party as heartless to unemployed Americans.
For his trouble, Sen. Bunning was subjected to bomb threats and was the target of a public relations campaign to have him removed from baseball’s hall of fame.
In the end, only 19 Republican senators voted against the emergency spending bill even though not a single dime of the spending was offset according to the pay as you go legislation.
2. Voter unhappiness with Congress has reached “the highest level ever recorded” according to Rasmussen Reports.
71% of Americans now consider the job Congress is doing to be poor, an astounding 10 point jump in just the last month. Nearly half of Democrats surveyed (48%) gave Congress a poor job rating, up 17 points from January.
Three out of four American surveyed reported being “angry” with the policies coming from the federal government and 63% believed it would be better for the country if incumbent politicians were defeated.
Still, voters have not placed their faith in the Republicans. 44% surveyed believed Democrats had a plan for the future while just 35% placed similar faith in Republicans.
3. Stuart Rothenberg’s influential Political Report rates four Senate seats currently held by Democrats as “leaning” toward GOP takeover in the 2010 mid term elections.
In addition to open seats in North Dakota (Byron Dorgan retiring) and Delaware (Vice President Biden’s old seat), current Senators Harry Reid of Nevada and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas are considered likely GOP pickups by Rothenberg.
Rothenberg rates eight Senate races as “toss-ups”:
He gives a “narrow advantage” to Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina and “clear” advantages to Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana and Barbara Boxer of California. Rothenberg rates a “clear” advantage for the incumbent party in the Open seat races in Florida and Connecticut. All other Senate races are rated as “currently safe.”
Rothenberg’s latest change was to move Sen. Boxer from “safe” to “clear” advantage reflecting “less than intimidating” poll numbers for the three term Senator.