March 2nd, 2010
06:22 PM ET
8 years ago

CNN Fact Check: Is Senator Bunning filibustering?

- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid calls Sen. Jim Bunning's one-man opposition to a jobless benefits extension a filibuster. But Bunning, R-Kentucky, says that's not the case since he's merely blocking a bill before it's introduced. A filibuster is when "you talk and talk and talk," Bunning insists. So who's right?

Fact Check: Is Sen. Jim Bunning's effort to block an unemployment benefit extension a filibuster?

Get the facts and the bottom line after the jump:

- Bunning told fellow senators, "It's not a filibuster if you object, and that ought to be brought out clearly. A filibuster is when you stand on this floor and you talk and talk and talk. I have not done that." He has blocked the measure repeatedly since last week, insisting that lawmakers find money in the budget to pay for it, rather than running up the deficit.

- Senate Historian Donald Ritchie says there is no official definition for a filibuster, as far as the Senate is concerned. But it has always been a popular term that has come to mean "any tactic that prevents a majority from coming to a vote on an issue." He says it can take the form of speaking for long periods or voting against cloture motions, which are needed to end debate and allow the legislation to come up for a vote.

- The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines filibuster simply as "the use of extreme dilatory tactics in an attempt to delay or prevent action, especially in a legislative assembly."

- The term originated in the early to mid-19th century, coming from a Dutch word "vrijbuiter" meaning "freebooter" or "pirate," according to Ritchie. He says newspapers began using it to describe lawmakers seizing or blocking legislation, and it stuck.

- Ritchie notes there are no "party" positions on what is considered a filibuster, and lawmakers' views are shaped mainly by their majority or minority status.

Bottom Line
: According to the definitions provided by the dictionary and a Senate historian, Bunning's opposition to the unemployment extension measure amounts to a filibuster. No rambling speeches dragging into the night required.

–CNN's Lisa Desjardins and Evan Glass contributed to this Fact Check.

Filed under: Jim Bunning
soundoff (36 Responses)
  1. Joe in Vega$

    No. He's obstructing.

    March 2, 2010 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  2. I voted for Obama and proud of it in Oregon

    he is doing what the republicans want him to do stall and say NO to everything the idiot is retiring 🙂

    March 2, 2010 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  3. ThinkAgain

    I encourage everyone to do what I did: I looked up his Senate office online and then called all the numbers until I got through.

    The D.C. office number was busy, the next two regional offices' voice mailboxes were full, but I was able to get through and leave a message with the third regional office's voice mail.

    And, boy, did I give that Class A jerk an earful!

    Bunning is nothing more than a typical hypocritical, cowardly Republican!

    The GOP is one pathetic group of losers!

    March 2, 2010 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  4. Jim

    I wonder if the imbicile's Senate Pension is fully Funded? If it isn't, then this freeloader shouldn't get any cheques either. I don't recall him screeming or giving anyone the finger when Bush committed the military to two wars on borrowed money. Fund the wars by raising taxes on these fat cat "patriots". Bunning has taken one too many baseballs to the head.

    March 2, 2010 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  5. Allison

    Republican Bunning is just acting like a typical Republican......trying to accomplish failure.

    March 2, 2010 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  6. Brendan H., San Antonio, TX

    This is the same Jim Bunning who accused anybody opposing Bush's ability to fight the Iraq War as un-American despite the pleas of Democrats to monitor the spending and find the monies for fighting the war before blazing into Iraq blindly. We know how that worked out, and now Bunning seems hell-bent on wanting the source of money before helping the unemployed? This money can be found and accounted for in a flash. But more importantly, nobody will get killed unjustifiably in the effort, unlike the aforementioned foray into the unkown in Iraq.

    March 2, 2010 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  7. jerseylou

    When you give these thugs power and money they are at the top of the food chain and nothing else matters.

    March 2, 2010 06:48 pm at 6:48 pm |
  8. Andy

    Harry Reid said_____ like I care,Harry Reid needs to go,a waste along with Pelosi.Good for Bunning ,doing what NObama said,now the Obamanator and his sheep are up in arms.Good,I do not care who does not get whatever your socialist agenda wants.Since when does the tax payer have to "keep up" the 50% of non taxpayers.You liberals "keep up"these free loaders and the welfare queens,you made them what they are,not me,I was too busy working my 2 jobs.

    March 2, 2010 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |
  9. Illinois 2

    Jim Bunning is not interested in doing anything but to leave office as a person with a vision. To bad he doesn't care about all those that are out of work because of corporate greed and large business pay offs for tax breaks and laws to allow them to move jobs out of the country for cheap labor.

    Christ said to help those that are in need. This is not for those that expect handout because they feel the government should keep them and have long used family tradition to do just that, but for those that have jobs taken away due to layoffs for work shortages or job being pushed out because of another industry moving out of town or out of the country....

    March 2, 2010 06:52 pm at 6:52 pm |
  10. Sheena

    This Senator is making a much needed statement to this administration that just keeps spending and spending. I am unemployed also, but I would rather take the brunt than my children and grandchildren, and that is what will happen if this spending continues.
    You know, These people keep blaming Bush, but in all reality, Bush did not do everything on his own, there were votes to bring things to law, and all these people crying republicans, seem to forget that there were ALSO Democrats in there voting on everything that happened in Bush's Adminitration, and fact is that Obama's Administration has spent more and added to our deficit more than any other president in history and did it all in one year, can you imagine 7 more years of this spending of money we dont have???? OMG

    March 2, 2010 06:53 pm at 6:53 pm |
  11. Jim in Florida

    Wow, CNN is the filibuster police now. Where were you when it was Democrats who were filibustering?

    I can't help but wonder how much this Congress is going to spend, spend, spend and how much they are going to tax, tax, tax....

    How long is the raking over the coals by Congress of Toyota continue. Until Ford and GM top Toyota sales? (Today GM recalled 1.3 million vehicles for a safety related issue – not long ago Ford had to recall around 4 million autos too, but their execs weren't drawn and quartered in DC)

    One wonders if the ownwer of GM (the Obama government) is trying to level the playing field for Detroit and the unions at the expense of Toyota. That would be a classic and ruthless Socialist behavior.

    March 2, 2010 06:54 pm at 6:54 pm |
  12. Jake

    Who cares what he is doing,I agree with him,quit paying for the free loaders.Since when does the tax payer have to raise the 50% of non tax payers.Let them work or perish.

    March 2, 2010 06:54 pm at 6:54 pm |
  13. Mike Murphy

    Per the historian, a filibuster blocks a vote. That is the opposite of what Bunning is doing. Dems want paygo, he is insuring that.

    March 2, 2010 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  14. Sam in Texas

    Well – what else could one expect? He is as out of touch on this issue as McConnell is on health care!

    March 2, 2010 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  15. SocialismBad

    It is quite amusing to see all you hypocrit liberals and Democrats attack a person who has one simple request of the Senate, FUND A BILL BEFORE YOU PASS IT! LIKE YOU SAID YOU'D DO!!!

    These Democratic clowns have no intention of EVER reducing spending and elimnating our unbelieveable debt. It is clear they are intent on driving this country over a financial cliff.

    March 2, 2010 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |

    Here is my own Fact Checker: What an incredulous stretch by any standard! CNN had to look long and hard for someone to contradict Bunning, especially when EVERYONE knows EXACTLY what a filibuster is. Pathetic yellow journalism.

    March 2, 2010 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  17. They call me "tater salad"

    "Is Senator Bunning filibustering?"..........NOPE!.........Just being a JERK because he can and because all of the half-wits in the Senate thought it would be a good idea to have a rule that allows ONE Senator the power to block and hold up any legislation for any reason even if that ONE Senator is only riding out his last day's til retirement because he knows he has absolutely NO CHANCE of winning re-election........Pretty smart huh?

    March 2, 2010 07:02 pm at 7:02 pm |
  18. Louis

    As long as he's blocking the legislation I don't care what he's doing

    March 2, 2010 07:02 pm at 7:02 pm |
  19. Kathy

    When is Senator Bunning taking a pay cut to pay for the extension of unemployment beneftis? In fact, when are all the Senators and House members taking a pay cuts to help out their constituents that are unemployed?

    March 2, 2010 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  20. Betty

    You go Bunning!!!!!!!!!!!!Rah Rah Rah.

    March 2, 2010 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
  21. joe

    Paygo. that would be the term. Why is everyone jumping on Bunning. He is simply holding the Senate to their word. The exstension of Jobless benefit is noble. However, who is going to pay for it? China? that is all he is asking. I love how the media interprets this as he is standing in the way of a popular program. Of course it is popular, its free money. It is popular to those receiveing it. We have become a nation of freeloaders, it is that simple.

    March 2, 2010 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |

    It doesn't matter what you call it, this idiot Bunning is blocking this bill and is hurting real people. Normally I'd ask, how can he sleep at night, but then again he's a republican. Not concerned about people, just politics. Throw all the republicans out in 2010!

    March 2, 2010 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  23. Mickey

    This amounts to more domestic terrorism by the Republicans. This is what they have devolved to...this is all they know.

    March 2, 2010 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  24. Eye wide open

    Man this is just pathetic.

    There are 100 senators, one man cannot prevent "the majority" from coming to a decision.

    This is just ridiculous on it's face.

    CNN fact check fail....

    March 2, 2010 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  25. NotSoMuch

    The expiration of the earlier bills was not a surprise to anyone and I would fall back on the bromide, "A lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine." If the Senate used its normal procedures instead of declaring this an emergency measure he could try to filibuster and would apparently fail as he lacks even the full support of his own party. Instead they have asked for unanimous consent to bypass the normal rules and hurry this along. Bunning has declined to accede to unanimous consent. That is not the same as preventing "a majority from coming to a vote." Say what you will about the position he has taken, but don't call it a filibuster unless you think every parliamentary delaying tactic is synonymous with a filibuster. And then we may as well retire the word filibuster from the lexicon.

    March 2, 2010 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
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