March 2nd, 2010
02:36 PM ET
4 years ago

CNN Fact Check: Is Sen. Jim Bunning's stand against unemployment extensions in line with his past votes?

(CNN) - Sen. Jim Bunning set off a firestorm in Washington - and across the country - by single-handedly blocking a short-term extension of jobless benefits, demanding that it be paid for instead of adding to the deficit.

The $10 billion package also includes road projects and COBRA health insurance subsidies.

Without it, millions of out-of-work Americans can't continue to apply for federal unemployment benefits, and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said up to 2,000 employees at his agency would be sent home without pay.

Bunning, R-Kentucky, says he's not opposed to extending the benefits - he just wants to make sure they're paid for without adding to the deficit.

"If we can't find $10 billion to pay for something that we all support, we will never pay for anything on the floor of the U.S. Senate," he said. In response, Senate Majority leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, asked, "Where
was my friend from Kentucky when we had two wars that were unpaid for during the Bush administration?"

And that got the CNN Fact Check desk wondering: Has Bunning always been so deficit-conscious, or is his hardball stance something new?

Fact Check: Has Bunning voted for other unemployment benefit extensions or programs that increased the deficit?

(Get the facts and the bottom line after the jump)


– Bunning supported the 2008 supplemental war spending bill, which included a provision to extend unemployment insurance benefits for 13 weeks. The bill also extended benefits for an additional 13 weeks for workers in states with unemployment rates of 6 percent or higher. Since this was a supplemental bill, there were no budget offsets for the extensions. Bunning voted to end debate on the bill, allowing it to advance through the Senate, and he also voted in favor of the final bill.

– In June 2009, Bunning voted in favor of the Senate's $106 billion spending bill to pay for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars through September 30, 2010. The bill included $7.7 billion to prepare for a flu pandemic and $1 billion for the "Cash for Clunkers" program, as well as other projects.

– Bunning also voted in favor of the Bush tax cuts in 2001 and 2003, as well as President George Bush's Medicare drug benefit plan, all of which added to the federal deficit.

– In January, Bunning voted against increasing the statutory limit on the public debt and has backed several other measures aimed at curbing the deficit, including provisions to establish 5-year discretionary spending caps. He also backed a failed amendment that would have terminated further spending under the Troubled Asset Relief Program, the widely criticized bank bailout of 2008.

– Bunning argues that extending jobless benefits without cutting spending elsewhere violates the newly reinstated "pay-as-you-go" budget rules. Bunning voted against that legislation, which was signed into law last month as part of the bill that raised the debt ceiling. President Barack Obama urged Congress to bring back the provision in his State of the Union address, calling it "a big reason we had surpluses in the 1990s."

– Bunning, a former Major League pitcher who was inducted into baseball's Hall of Fame in 1996, announced in July that he won't seek re-election in 2010. He accuses GOP leaders of pushing him out by "doing
everything in their power to dry up my fund-raising." He was elected to the Senate in 1998 after serving 12 years in the U.S. House.

Bottom Line: Senator Bunning has voted for unemployment benefit extensions that did not include budget offsets at least twice in the past. He also voted for President Bush's tax cuts, as Majority Leader Harry Reid pointed out, as well as the Medicare Drug Benefit plan which the Bush administration acknowledged would add to the deficit. Despite his push for budget constraints and against TARP spending, his stand against unemployment benefit extensions without budget offsets isn't in line with past votes.

Updated: 6: 06 p.m.

– CNN's Diana Holden, Matt Smith, Allison Archer and Dana Bash contributed to this Fact Check.


Filed under: Jim Bunning • Popular Posts
soundoff (123 Responses)
  1. mypitts2

    Good reporting. The facts are troublesome things.

    March 2, 2010 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  2. Sniffit

    DUH. How many times do I have to point out that he's not running for re-election and was chosen to fall on his sword for the GOP on this one? Get a clue and f-ing report it for what it is. He's the fall guy for buying the GOP more time to delay and spew their ideology all over our faces while he takes the blame and the rest of them claim clean hands.

    March 2, 2010 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  3. Marc

    Translation, Sen. Bunning is a hipocryte.
    What else is news?

    March 2, 2010 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  4. Marilou Hall

    Bunning's sense of outrage to government spending seems to directly inverse to the power of the lobbyists from whom he gets his talking points.

    March 2, 2010 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  5. get real

    Please read the entire article Republicans...Bunning "voted in favor of the Bush tax cuts in 2001 and 2003, as well as President George Bush's Medicare drug benefit plan, all of WHICH ADDED to the FEDERAL DEFICIT." AND he voted against pay as you go...The thing he says he's trying to defend with his obstructionist behavior. What a hypocrite!!!!!!!!!!!

    March 2, 2010 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  6. donttreadonme

    So Obama and his pals in congress pass this law just a month ago and then in true dem spirit try to break this law and slam Bunning for holding them accountable. Instead of fixing this months ago dems try to slam it through at the last minute to by-pass their own rules. Nice!

    March 2, 2010 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  7. Jim

    Why should being in line with his past votes matter? When has the Republican party ever stood behind their past votes? The attack the Dems for "dangerous national debt increases" yet they voted to support un-funded wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. They voted to support Bush's tax cuts which were un-funded. But that doesn't matter. They blame everything on Obama.

    March 2, 2010 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  8. Nathaniel Muse

    It's a shame that this Senator has no clue that political grandstanding will impact him adversely at election time. While I am in favor of budget restraint, in these economical times, we have to make exceptions.
    Reveiwing his voting record, its apparent his real purpose for his actions; to hurt the President's aganda.

    March 2, 2010 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  9. Cat, Holt, Mo

    Another lying Republican, who has no problem spending money as long as it was a Republican idea. The Republican party will be the ruin of this great nation. They only care about themselves, to hell with what is good for the American people. I will never never never never vote for a Republican. And will campaign against them every chance I get.

    March 2, 2010 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  10. Carlos

    What a piece of garbage of a man.

    March 2, 2010 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  11. Lidia

    Tier III is exhausted, I have no where to turn. Jobs are nowhere to be found. No hope for me......

    March 2, 2010 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  12. gop

    3 old crooks must be laid off immediately:
    1) McCain
    2) Bunning
    3) Lieberman

    March 2, 2010 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  13. vdm

    Sorry, but I agree with Senator Bunning. You can throw all the mud that you want, but it is a no-brainer that, at some point, we have to start paying for all these entitlements instead of adding on to the deficit. Good for you, Senator Bunning, for having the cajones to stand up for your beliefs.

    March 2, 2010 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  14. John

    As if Republicans actually gave a rip about people with no jobs or money...

    March 2, 2010 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  15. Mike

    Bunning is just doing what uhbamas PAYGO law, which he signed into law on 2/13/2010, states.

    March 2, 2010 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  16. Sue

    A similar type of question can be asked of CNN.......Does CNN only do their investigating "fact checking" when it involves a Republican???.........Let's do some fact checking............

    During the Presidential campaigns/elections........Did CNN do any research/investigating/questioning about Obama and his connections to Rev Wright, Louis Farrakhan, Tony Rezko, William Ayers, etc.???

    Did CNN question Obama, Reid, Pelosi about ACORN, SEIU, the fraudulent claims/data regarding the supposed successes of the stimulous??? Did they question why the unspent stimulous money is not being spent on the unemployment extensions??

    Where was the investigating/fact checking in regard to Chris Dodd??? Barney Frank?? And, now, not even one peep about Charlie Rangel.

    March 2, 2010 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  17. Tanbiker2

    Jim Bunning it a stupid, arrogant Republican thug. It great that he is leaving the Senate and sad that he's trying to do as much harm to America as he possibly can before he leaves.

    March 2, 2010 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  18. Jesse in Maryland

    How many of these other votes were made after Congress had just passed "pay as you go" legislation, mandating that new spending had to be balanced by new revenue or comparable budget cuts? Heck, there's money in the stimulus fund, just sitting there! Why not use that? Well, because the Democratic leadership doesn't want to. Why not? Who knows, they've stopped making any sense to me.

    March 2, 2010 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  19. Ancient Texan

    Finally! One Senator with the guts to stand up and say, ENOUGH! The Idiots in D.C. are bankrupting the nation just in political paybacks, with no plan whatsoever to pay for all this political posturing. I can't wait until November, and watch all these insane politicians, leave the building and join the unemployment lines.

    March 2, 2010 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  20. Sue

    I've applied everywhere, even 60 miles away in all directions. Either I'm over-qualified or sorry, we're not hiring at this time. I've now exhausted the last of my unemployment benefits (Tier III in my state) and nhave no where to turn. Desperation is here, nothing left. . . . . . . . . . so much for college days and the American dream.

    March 2, 2010 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  21. wizard

    Perhaps because PAYGO hadn't been signed into law when those other votes took place?

    March 2, 2010 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  22. Jim In Miami

    And all over Philadelphia – baseball fans – wince in shame

    March 2, 2010 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  23. Dave

    So? Just because he voted in the past to spend recklessly doesn't require him to continue to be so stupid. Hey all you other politicians- wake up to the fact the the people of this nation are cutting back on their personal finances and expect their elected leaders to do the same! STOP SPENDING BEYOND OUR MEANS!!!

    March 2, 2010 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  24. DasBuddha

    This is NOT a fact check question! It is a SUBJECTIVE matter how consistent Bunning's current stance is with previous votes. One's opinion on a specific 2010 spending decision is necessarily tied to the current financial situation, and comparisons to previous financial decisions necessarily brings with it a SUBJECTIVE assessment of how similar the situations really are. The opinion that Bunning is an unmitigated hypocrite (and an embarrassment to my home state) is absolutely defensible with facts, but the objectivity of the support doesn't make the conclusion any less an OPINION. Journalism 101 is supposed to teach the difference between objective fact and subjective opinion. With spinmeisters arguing about facts as if they were opinions and you folks adjudicating opinions as if they were facts, it's no wonder consumers have lost faith in the objectivity of news outlets. Very simply, news outlets no longer seem to know what objectivity is. Please, please, please. Do your job.

    March 2, 2010 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  25. Four and The Door

    Were his past votes in the context of the same out of control spending and insurmountable debt that America is in now? Nope.

    For instance, a vote to declare war on Japan right now would be difficult to compare to the same vote on December 8th, 1941.

    I hope our politicians in Washington consider the context of America's situation when they make decisions about legislation.

    March 2, 2010 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
1 2 3 4 5