March 2nd, 2010
02:36 PM ET
11 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. Jim

    " ... his stand against unemployment benefit extensions without budget offsets isn't in line with past votes."

    proof of his current republican obstructionist actions.

    I'm fed up with republicans being part of the problem.

    March 2, 2010 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  2. hozo2006

    fiddling while the country burns ... we have a host of idiots in Washington

    March 2, 2010 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  3. Seth

    He is holding Construction workers in many States and the unemployed workers hostage because he wants to see the present Administration fail, but the problem with that is he is making the Republican Party look like it's against the working middle-class, this could turn off a lot of Republicans and Independents to the Republican Party.

    Or, perhaps he wants to help the Obama Administration by painting the Republican Party as a heartless Party as revenge for being pushed out.

    March 2, 2010 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  4. JGB

    So CNN is your take on this that we should just continue this out of control spending and extend unemployment benefits permanently? Why don't you spend a little more time fact checking Obama and exposing his "lies"

    March 2, 2010 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  5. HJA

    Two faced??? Why am I not suprised???? Typical Repub.

    March 2, 2010 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  6. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    This shows to me that Bunning is a hypocrite. He is inconsistant about how he votes and what he votes for in the Senate. I am glad that he won't be back in the Senate. He can't leave fast enough. I don't mind him being safe and well as long as it is out of Senate NOW!

    March 2, 2010 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  7. Phoenix

    So his voting shows he is not willing to live with Business as Usual. It is time for others to follow. If I ran my household in the same fashion as Congress is running the current approach to our econominic predicament, I'd be thrown in jail and all my assets confiscated for commiting fraud. Seems the same standards and expectations that apply to me should govern those who are trying to convince me they know better than I do how to obtain medical coverage, fight two war fronts, and take money out of my pocket....

    March 2, 2010 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  8. Reny

    So he is a hypocrite. It figures.

    March 2, 2010 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  9. inofritzn

    isn't Obama for PAY-GO????

    March 2, 2010 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  10. Mack

    He's pure evil and full of hate and malice for the less fortunate. Passionate conservatism at its best.

    March 2, 2010 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  11. Dave

    So Bunning is a hypocrite and a Republican. Sounds about right...

    March 2, 2010 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  12. J. Hix

    Suddenly Senator Bunning grows a conscience on government spending?

    March 2, 2010 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  13. Gary

    I don't care if he's being inconsistent, or political or grumpy....Sen Bunning is right, we have to stop spending money that we do not have. This is an issue with both Republicans and Democrats. We need to cut spending. If every Senator would take a stand like Bunning we would have a balance budget. This is pathetic.

    March 2, 2010 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  14. VAVoter

    Thank you.

    March 2, 2010 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  15. mike

    Sounds like this Senator is playing dirty, partisan politics. He should give up his paycheck temporarily until those folks on unemployment get an extension.

    March 2, 2010 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  16. shooter

    Lay-off this old crook and give him the same medicine. No health care, no unemployment insurance.

    March 2, 2010 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  17. eolufemi

    duh, we already knew he was hypocrite just like most republicans. now the question is what are the democrats going to do about it.

    March 2, 2010 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  18. inofritzn

    I love how you morons at cnn are framing this topic. You guys are truly bottomed out with pathetic! Any mention of pay-go, uncontrolled debt, overpaid underworking ferderal employees that should be let go? go ahead and bury it with climate-gate Phil Jones (which cnn has yet to mention anything about)

    March 2, 2010 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  19. Truth Bomb Thrower

    Thanks CNN for uncovering this GOPrick's hypocrisy.

    March 2, 2010 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  20. Gary

    It's good that the man isn't running for reelection. He has put the screws to a lot of families who need help while he lives comfortably. I hope his fellow GOP boys put the pressure on him to amend his ways....

    March 2, 2010 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  21. Stop The Obama Sheep

    Well, things change. We are rolling downhill into a debt disaster. CNN is soooo typical. Advocate for Obama, attack and destroy!!

    Do a study on govt. debt please.
    Compare vs GDP. Compare the rising of debt to any time in the rest of the history of the country. DO COMPARE.

    March 2, 2010 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  22. ss

    I love how your network is trying to pretend to be unbiased. All you are is a network without a true independent. At least when I watch MSNBC or Fox News they don't hide their bias. A few sentences toward the bottom supporting why this senator is more consistent than most in washington. To bad their aren't any consistent independent reporters as on every show I have attempted to watch shows this big bias to the extreme liberal view. This is why your ratings suck. I like watching and monitoring news, but your bias after claiming to be representing the independent view is horrible. Another great example is how you have current members of the DNC on as guest analysts and never put it beneath their name. I don't believe I have seen a real conservative on your network in years. But you have plenty of liberals. Maybe someone with enough intelligence in your network could make the connection with these problems and your ratings.

    March 2, 2010 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  23. bdm

    go figure...

    March 2, 2010 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  24. DH Mid MI

    It doesn't matter. I admire his courage in insisting something be paid for. Someone must have the courage to recognize that our spending, deficit and trillions in unfunded liabilities need to be controlled and who better than someone not running for re-election.

    March 2, 2010 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  25. Sgt. USMC

    Sounds like he's bitter.

    Again, another reason to vote democrat.

    Too many republicans from the bush era still around.

    It's too risky to try and rehabilitate these folks.

    They have a one track mind, they only concentrate on what the democrats are doing.

    They don't appear to try and help the regular folks.

    March 2, 2010 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
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