March 2nd, 2010
06:22 PM ET
13 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. Minnie

    who cares

    March 2, 2010 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  2. Steve

    This is not a filibuster. It is not preventing a bill from coming up to a majority vote. It is simply a vote against a bill that requires full consent. Note that this means that 99 out of 100 senators have voted for the bill. If it was a filibuster, that could not have happened.

    March 2, 2010 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  3. sheba - NYC

    Well he knew that he was not going to be re-elected, so had to cave in. Who would want to have a senator that is not compassionate towards the unemployed? The country is going through a crisis...unemployment benefits are a necessity not a luxury..people have to eat and pay their rent – its not like they don't want to work..its simply that there no jobs period.
    Companies don't have money to hire...he should try to bring business into his state instead of trying to block the benefits...

    March 2, 2010 07:30 pm at 7:30 pm |
  4. C. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    Bunning's not fit to be a dog catcher.

    March 2, 2010 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
  5. Frumious Bandersnatch

    Bunning was a punk when he pitched and nothing has changed, His retirement can't come soon enough. I just hope the people of Kentucky have learned their lesson. I'm not holding my breath.

    March 2, 2010 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  6. Pedro

    A Republican lied? Get out CNN. This is some kind of blasphemy for sure.

    March 2, 2010 08:02 pm at 8:02 pm |
  7. rich

    Not trying to block, just realize it must be paid for. In order to give something government must take something.

    March 2, 2010 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  8. jane

    Seems that Bunning might be a little nervous about losing his own job, given the notoriety he has received.

    With the Bush Administration having gutted out treasury and bought us to the brink of economic collapse, from which it will probably take generations to recover, how can any of these Republicans even show their faces, much less complain about Democrats' spending????

    March 2, 2010 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
  9. Marie MD

    Reid is right. bunning is a bump in the road. He needs to be to be run out of KY.

    March 2, 2010 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  10. Linda

    A final act of indecency from a retiring Republican. What a shocker!

    March 2, 2010 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  11. Hollie

    Republican Bunning is acting like a pitty pig.

    March 2, 2010 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
1 2