March 2nd, 2010
02:36 PM ET
5 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. buccakenji

    Why are COBRA and road projects part of legislation to extend unemployment benefits? They are totally unrelated items. This is why brokering happens so much in 'fantasyland'. Make an issue of something that is REALLY critical for the nation and then tack on bulls hit on top so detractors will sound like Satan himself. Sen. Bunning is absolutely correct in opposing this conglomeration of garbage. Stick to your guns, my friend, and maybe our deficit will finally begin to turn around. Too many tax and spend Dems were not spanked enough when a child. Now is the time.

    March 2, 2010 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  2. Fooled Again

    I'm a die hard Republican, but I'm behind bunning on this one. Let's start paying for programs, instead of borrowing and printing

    March 2, 2010 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  3. James

    Sen. Bunning is right, and it is a shame the HLN potrayed him in such a manner, just last week Pres. Obama said no new spending unless it is paid for, the Sen. is not stoping the bill because of meanness, but to hold Dems. responsible to PAY-GO.

    March 2, 2010 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  4. Brett Cox

    Ball four, Mr. Bunning!

    March 2, 2010 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  5. JC from Kansas-40 years a Republican -so sorry

    But it is in line with the Republican way of life today where just because bills include things that have agreed to in the past by members of the GOP, does not mean that they will agree to them in a Democratic controlled Congress. Sounds a little like a continuation of the Part of no, and a purely partisan approach regardsless of claims. This truely is not the Republican party that I grew up in and use to support.

    March 2, 2010 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  6. C- CITIZEN

    I think Senator Bunning has been in "there" all along helping the deficit along. I APPLAUDE him for his current stance. It's high time these Senators STOPPED ding what's BEST for the "FEW" and started THINKING and ACTING for the MANY and the our GENERATIONS to come. Abit his actions may be a little late but STILL in time the get the message across that the BUCK has to STOP somewhere at sometime. NOW IS THE TIME. We are in DEEP DEBT. I also think TERM LIMITS will help curb this SPENDING PROCESS. TERM LIMITS are in the hands of the VOTERS. NOVEMBER IS COMING – that will be TERM LIMIT TIME. VOTERS, YOU HAVE THE POWER – IT'S CALLED YOUR VOTE. EXERCISE IT WISELY. Get the do nothing's out ( give them their PINK SLIP) VOTE in a new, younger generation, a fresh face that OWES nobody and one that has ideals that represent our VOTE.
    NOVEMBER = PINK SLIP MONTH – YOUR VOTE = TERM LIMITS
    YOU HAVE THE POWER and CONTROL VOTE

    March 2, 2010 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  7. It has begun-

    The Pay-Go legislation that is now law, was introduced by this Obama Admin was not in effect and since Obama has quadruple the deficit since taking office it makes sense that someone ought to hold these Dems & Republicans accountable for their out of control spending.

    Or was the Pay-Go legislation another Obama say one thing then do another?

    Nice try CNN!
    -Why don't u fact check Obama and the false statements he spew at the fake Health Care Summit theatre?
    -Why don't u ask Obama, if H/C is so dire why does it take effect four years fr when it will be signed into law?
    -Why dont u ask why 30 million will still be uninsured 10yrs after this atocity H/C bill is signed into law?
    Why don't u do your job CNN and stop facilitating the robbery of our children & grandchildren perpetuated by this Administration!

    March 2, 2010 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  8. Chas in Iowa

    We know this guy is done after this term. That is exactly why the GOP has made him point man to block this emergency spending bill.
    The homeless folks from Kentucky need to move to his front yard in protest. The 2000 people who lost their jobs because of this side show should also camp in the state of Kentucky's state house lawn.
    This type of Jerrymadering plays directly into the GOP motra of everything for the rich, the hell with the poor.
    We need to send every one of the GOP encumbants home and bring in some true conservatives. We need to take back the GOP from corporate interests.

    March 2, 2010 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  9. Robert

    It's irrelevant if he's got a history of constraints or not. What he's trying to make as a point most people would agree with him on. BUT, nobody is going to support his taking a stand on unemployment benefits... That was dumb.... and it seems to be right in line with the philosophy of the Republican party at large.. Senator Kyle's stupid remarks about unemployment de-incentivizing unemployed people to find work only supports that..

    I think people are wising up that the Republican party is not the party of the average joe. They are the party of the millionnaires and corporate america...

    March 2, 2010 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  10. Justen in Florida

    Thank God for Jim Bunning.

    Do all you progresso's out there really think that if you lose your job, that it is everyone elses responsability to give you their money?

    March 2, 2010 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  11. buckwheat

    If CNN is so interested in fact checking why have you not checked Charlie Rangle and the rest of the people that are in our Congress that are now under investigation or should be.What about out treasury secretary?What about the University records of our top leaders that no one seem to remember or have ever seen? How do we know they were as qualified as we were led to believe? If their memory is as bad as they claim when questioned about slimey dealings and theri finances how do they find their way to work.Why should we trust them to run the government? Investigate them like you are bunning if you want a story. Is Government Motors going to get the same scrutiny as Toyota?

    March 2, 2010 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  12. JS007

    Seems to me that this is either petty politics of getting even with his Senate colleagues on the back of the unemployed or outright hatred and disrespect for the needy. If he was in support of funding Iraq and Afghanistan wars as well as Bush tax cuts for the rich with borrowed money I fail to see why he now all of a sudden thinks that taking away $10B from the unemployed will help the situation, or his credibility.

    March 2, 2010 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  13. FRANK, LAS VEGAS

    He only votes no when it's a democratic bill. He voted for all of Bush's unfunded bills without a peep out of him. Can you say HYPOCRITE or in the words of another GOP idiot, Mr. Bunning, YOU LIE!

    March 2, 2010 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  14. TJ

    Vintage Republican here – nothing new.

    March 2, 2010 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  15. Louis

    So let me get this straight–do you think he should vote for an unfunded program now just because he has done so in the past? Maybe Bunning, unlike the rest of our incompetent Congress, has finally realized that the time has come to stop out of control deficit spending. He is being criticized for wanting to pay for programs with actual money rather than borrowing–if our country continues to borrow billions to pay our bills, we are doomed.

    March 2, 2010 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  16. Mike

    Were with you Jim this spending has to stop..................

    March 2, 2010 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  17. I WANT MINES

    the dems always bring up how much bush spent but they keep on the same track so what is up with that crap? talk about talking out the side of your neck i cant believe Americans cant see that and i cant believe the donkeys are getting by with it
    REPUBLICANS SHOW IT TO THEM BRING IT UP NOW THAT THE DEMS ARE FOLLOWING WHAT YOU STARTED SO THEY CANT USE IT ANYMORE

    March 2, 2010 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  18. wally

    I think every Republican has no heart....just like Cheney. Give them all a stint to get their blood flowing and this country moving!

    March 2, 2010 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  19. j

    Can we kick him out of the Hall of Fame and induct him into a Hall of Shame instead? The Senate rules need to be changed so that one person can't hold up legislation. Bunning ought to be ashamed of himself.

    March 2, 2010 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  20. Rob

    That's because he's not running for re-election anymore. That means he doesn't have to worry about making his (or anyone else's) constituents happy. And he does make a good point, if Congress is going to ensure that any additional spending is paid for, then I say hold them to it.

    But here's a novel idea. How about instead of expecting everything to be financed by tax payer dollars, give the people a chance to raise the money themselves. It's called fundraising, something politicians are very good at. We spend way too much money these days on political campaigns and not enough on fixing our nations problems.

    March 2, 2010 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  21. Mickey

    blah blah blah...the newest domestic terrorist organization: The GOP

    March 2, 2010 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  22. Adalbert

    Send this dictator back to KY.

    March 2, 2010 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  23. hobart

    Well, duh! Bunning's claim that he's doing this to curb the deficit and/or debt is pure bovine bm. His stance is pure hypocrisy that's so in-your-face outrageous that even Party of No insiders are cringing that Bunning is revealing what heartless bastards they all are.

    Their bottom line is that the "haves" deserve what they have, and the "have nots" deserve what they have not. To them, it's everybody for her/himself, and if you lost your job, house, health insurance, retirement plan to the failed policies of the last Republican administration, well that's too bad.

    Why do Republicans hate America?

    March 2, 2010 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
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