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. maxey jenkins

    Thank God that some of our elected officials remember that the
    country is at its limit. Some people think that they can take from the rich and give to the poor. They are sick of the taking.

    March 2, 2010 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  2. Jim Waite

    Senator Bunning is the new face of the Republican Party ... old, gray-haired and angry. Mid-term elections may not be as kind to them as they imagine.

    March 2, 2010 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  3. Jesus Francisco

    Somebody should give him the finger back!

    March 2, 2010 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  4. Tayo, NY

    Senator Bunning is just playing politic with American lives!

    He is just a typical politician, a Washington insider!!


    March 2, 2010 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  5. Tom Bailey

    Do you think that Senator Bunning has now exceeded Scrooge in stingy/nasty/bah-humburg?
    Obviously, if you can't whip the big boys, you pick on the little ones. I wonder how many children will starve because of Bunning, how many desperate fathers or mothers will take some drastic action to save their family.
    Don't forget him at election time, Kentucky!!
    Thomas Bailey
    Beaufort sc

    March 2, 2010 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  6. I am the Great and Omnipotent Wizard of Rush and I Say . . .

    Is another republican a hypocrite? Does the sun rise in the east?
    Does the bear . . . is the Pope?

    Republicans: Party Over Country

    March 2, 2010 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  7. Fran

    What a hypocrite!

    March 2, 2010 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  8. Tulsa

    So he's not only depriving American Citizens their JOBS, he's also telling lies about what he's done in the past.
    Even for a Republican he's a bad apple. (yes, I'm being kind)

    March 2, 2010 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  9. Shelly

    NEWS FLASH !!!!! Another Republican obstructing anything that the Democrats are doing to HELP the American people.
    The REPUBLICANS DO NOT CARE for the citizens for this country....only for the corporations, the wealthy and the gun toting ( Kills people),
    prolife ( oxi moron since they have no problem with gun violence), anti government while they collect social security, medicare and medicaid and use public services ie the Post Office and Highways) loonies!

    March 2, 2010 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  10. Robert Gorham

    Jim Bunning, hypocrite. He votes for Bush tax breaks for the rich and taxes for corporations to send jobs overseas but won't vote to help those that need help in these dire times including some in his home state. Sad and pathetic man.

    March 2, 2010 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  11. terry,va.

    Bunning is prevailing on this issue. He is close to cutting a deal with the dumbocraps to pay for what is being held up instead of adding to the deficit. To bad he is the only one that has a set on Capital Hill. He needs to give more of those idiots the finger!!!!

    March 2, 2010 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  12. Dennis

    I am very glad Senator Bunning is standing up, for once, to protect the interest of Tax Payers! You know, the one's who are actually working and paying more than their fair share of taxes to pay the costs of the billions Democrats want to put off on us honest, hard working citizens. CNN is as phony about this as they can be! That's why Rick Sanchez ran out as fast as he could to get the Demo Boss Kane on TV. To give the Democrats a place to show they are quite willing to be irresponsible IF, and ONLY IF, they can spend billions of taxpayer money to BUY DEMOCRAT VOTES!

    March 2, 2010 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  13. Dave in Virginia

    The good Senator from Kentucky should knock off the "Grand Standing" and let the Senate pass the bill.
    This is 1 more example of a broken government.......

    March 2, 2010 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  14. ReddDogg

    His vote is now in the new era of spend-spend-spend til our grandkids puke under the weight of debt ad infinitum. finall, he gets it right.

    March 2, 2010 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  15. Bill P

    Bottom Line: Senator Bunning is a hypocrite!

    March 2, 2010 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  16. Al-NY,NY

    I am SHOCKED!!!! Shocked I tell you

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

    One word to call this man – HYPROCITE!!!!!
    Under President Bush he voted to run up the deficit, but under President Obama, it is called wasteful spending – again HYPROCRITE

    March 2, 2010 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  18. Nathan

    You meant o say that Jim Bunning is a dishonest, inconsistent, self-serving, neoconservative wackjob malcontent? Wow, I'm incredibly shocked.

    March 2, 2010 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  19. margo

    I just found out my Tier III unemployment benefits have been exhausted.
    The extensions will do me no good. Feels like I am living in hell. I don't know what to do do now. I've lost about's too cold to live outside. Desperation is coming.

    March 2, 2010 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  20. FactCheck

    He voted for the heavily partisan Bush tax cuts twice and for both wars.... the reason why the country is in the current mess. That pretty much sums it all up. He is looking for either (a) a book deal, (b) a permanent show on FOX and/or (c) billions from corporate lobbyists.

    March 2, 2010 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  21. Dav id Rasmussen

    This is not about extending benefits any more or even the deficit Bunning is just grasping at straws waiting for for others to join his side.. Bunning doesn't care about any of this. The man is just misusing his power and making congress look bad. Bunning would rather send us all back into a recession then even try to help get this country back on their feet unemployment is going top skyrocket over the next few months because of his actions

    March 2, 2010 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  22. Tim

    He never once protested in the past. However, if he has had a change in heart, that's one thing. However, if he is doing this just to be an obstructionist, that is wrong. And if that is the reason he is doing it, then he needs to get off the pot.

    March 2, 2010 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  23. jbakaregit

    That's right. And it isn't just Bunning; it is the entire GOP now talking a good game about fiscal responsibility.

    What did George Bush and the Republicans do with the budget SURPLUS Bill Clinton left him? CNN do your jobs and ask all of them that question.

    Spending on endless "war on terror" or Iraq is ok by the GOP. The moment anyone tries to spend that money on the AMERICAN PEOPLE, get ready for cries of 'socialism" "tax&spend liberals," and any other nonsense coming from a party that has no regard for fiscal responsibility when they are in power.

    Vote Democrat or Indepenent come November. The GOP wants to block unemployment benefits? Well the American people will see to it the favor is returned to them come November; the GOP will be unemployed out of Washington.

    March 2, 2010 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  24. Elle in WA

    Isn't it obvious? This guy is in his last term and is heading for retirement. He doesn't care about the deficit and he doesn't care about the people he's hurting. All he cares about is his own agenda. I have a feeling we'll find out what that agenda is in the coming days or weeks.

    March 2, 2010 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  25. RS

    what a surprise – a republican that now cares about the budget when they are no longer in power

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