Tuesday, March 2, 2010 | 2:06 a.m.
Republican Sen. Jim Bunning of Kentucky used Senate rules to stop a bill last week that would have extended unemployment and health benefits to more than 1 million Americans. The bill also would have provided funding for transportation projects across the nation.
The bill had bipartisan support, but Bunning, one of the most conservative members of the Senate, said he was concerned about the deficit. He did not, however, suggest how Americans could get the help they need in the interim.
The bill was intended to be a stopgap measure to provide money to needed programs until legislation providing permanent funding can be passed. Congress is expected to find a way around Bunning’s inane maneuver this week, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada on Monday proposed legislation to give people their health and unemployment benefits back retroactively.
That is good news, but until something passes, Americans will suffer due to Bunning’s obstructionism.
There will be Americans who go without unemployment benefits in the short-term, and that will hurt not just those receiving the benefits but also the economy because it will translate into a cut in consumer spending.
The Transportation Department on Monday sent 2,000 workers home on an unpaid furlough until Congress moves to restore funding. The layoffs include federal highway inspectors, who are required to be on construction projects. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said that without them, the work cannot continue and construction crews will face their own furloughs. Of course, it may not matter because the bill that Bunning blocked was also meant to provide money for ongoing transportation projects.
Sadly, what the Kentucky Republican did seems to be on par for the GOP, which has shown a cold heart toward the plight of those affected by the recession.
Take, for instance, Rep. Dean Heller, R-Nev. As Lisa Mascaro noted in Sunday’s Las Vegas Sun, Heller told a crowd at the Elko Republican Party’s Lincoln Day Dinner that he wondered if extending unemployment benefits kept people from finding work.
“Is the government now creating hobos?” Heller said, according to the Elko Daily Free Press.
Is that really what the GOP believes, that government assistance is keeping Americans from working? Does he think that jobs are easy to come by? Heller’s ridiculous comments are cold-hearted and an insult to the hardworking Americans who have found themselves unemployed and unable to get jobs.
Given that Nevada’s unemployment rate of 13 percent is the second-highest in the nation, Heller should know better. Reid and the Democrats have worked diligently to save and create jobs, yet they have continually run into opposition from Republicans. What the nation needs is more bipartisan work in Congress to stimulate the economy, yet the Republicans offer insults and obstruct needed legislation. Shameful.