I have to admit I never liked Senator Jim Bunning very much. It has nothing to do with his political career, no I never followed his time in the Senate representing the state of Kentucky. My harsh feelings for Bunning has to do with his unforgivable act as a pitcher, throwing a perfect game against my beloved NY Mets on father’s day 1964. Bunning as well as Bob Moose, Bill Stoneman, Ed Halicki and Darryl Kile are all on my hate list for their pitching feat (Sandy Koufax also threw a no hitter against the Mets but he received a special Rabbinical pardon for not pitching a World Series game on Yom Kippur).
With his actions of the past day or two, Bunning may have earned himself a way off my hate list, and it has nothing to do with a Jewish holiday. The Senator from the great state of Kentucky is giving the country a taste of what things will be like if Obamacare is rammed down the throats of Americans via reconciliation.
The Democratic Majority has been trying to pass the jobs bill by unanimous consent but Bunning objected, saying “We can’t keep shipping our spending to our kids and our grandkids,I want to extend those provisions just as bad as the leader does, but we need to pay for them.”
If the the Senate cannot get Bunning to change his mind he bill cannot be voted on until Tuesday, two days after the bill runs out. More than just extending the unemployment payments, this particular bill also extends the “medicare fix” meaning that between the time the old bill runs out on Sunday and the bill is passed on Tuesday doctors treating medicare patients will receive about 74% of the compensation they usually get from medicare. In other words, for that one day period many doctors will be refusing to see patients under Medicare, a preview of what the Medicare actuary says will happen under Obamacare.
Richard Foster, the chief actuary at CMS, raised doubts about whether a significant number of healthcare providers could remain profitable if the proposed Medicare cuts went into effect.
“Providers for whom Medicare constitutes a substantive portion of their business could find it difficult to remain profitable and, absent legislative intervention, might end their participation in the program (possibly jeopardizing access to care for beneficiaries)
A Senator may request unanimous consent on the floor to set aside a specified rule of procedure so as to expedite proceedings. If no Senator objects, the Senate permits the action, but if any one Senator objects, the request is rejected. Without unanimous consent the actions of the Senate will slow to a crawl. For example two things that are routinely skipped through unanimous consent is public reading of the previous days minutes and the full reading of each bill.
Should the Democrats ram though the Obamacare bill through reconciliation, look for the GOP to stop consenting, causing the Senate to follow each and every procedure to the fullest and slowing it down to a crawl.
In an unusual display in the normally sleepy chamber, Bunning – without the support of GOP leadership – has blocked efforts to quickly approve a series of extensions to measures that would otherwise expire Sunday, including unemployment insurance and the Cobra program that allows people who lose their health benefits to continue getting coverage.
And that has led to a furious exchange on the floor, with Democrats attacking the senator, who has refused to relent on his objection, in unusually harsh terms.
In a colloquy with Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Sen. Jeff Merkley, a freshman Democrat from Oregon, was pleading for Bunning to drop his objection, when the Kentucky Republican got fed up.
“Tough s—t,” Bunning said as he was seated in the back row, overheard by the floor staff and others in attendance.
Bunning is furious about increased spending in the Senate – but he’s waging a lonely battle to stop it. The senior senator from his state, Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, with whom he has a frosty relationship, is not backing him up. If he refuses to relent, Democrats will have to file cloture to shut down debate, pushing back final action until next week.
…On the floor, Bunning leaned back in his chair, legs crossed, as he listened to a slew of Democratic senators talk about the bill he is blocking.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) approached Bunning around 9:30 p.m., and they spoke for a moment before Reid left the floor.
Reid has asked for unanimous consent to approve the package of provisions that expire Sunday, which also include 30-day extensions of flood insurance, highway funding and small business loans. But Bunning continues to object to the unanimous consent requests.
…Bunning, 78, a former Major League Baseball pitcher who is in the Hall of Fame, is considered one of the more eccentric members of the Senate. He doesn’t mingle much with his colleagues, can be gruff and rarely talks to the press. For months last year, he insisted he was running for re-election but found no support from McConnell and other top Republicans – and sharply criticized his Kentucky counterpart after he couldn’t raise the funds to mount a serious bid. Bunning ultimately decided to retire at the end of the year.
On the floor Thursday, Bunning complained about how the measures aren’t adequately paid for. And he criticized Reid for killing a bipartisan Finance Committee bill to address the unemployment rate and for “jamming” through other bills that he said would amount to a frivolous increase in spending.
In his exchanges with Democrats, Bunning has repeatedly referred to President Barack Obama as “your president.”
“All the spending portions of that compromise of those programs that you’re talking about were paid for in that bill,” Bunning said. “Now explain that to the American people.”
The rare late-night session drew House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) to the Senate floor, where he spoke with several Democratic senators.
Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said he would stay the night to defend the Senate. He wasn’t happy, though.
“I believe we’re stooping to a low level,” Corker said.
At 11:36 p.m., Durbin tried one final time to offer a unanimous-consent request to pass the 30-day extension. Bunning objected, and Durbin consented to a motion for adjournment after Corker and Bunning had a few more minutes to speak.
They will adjourn Friday morning, but the world’s greatest deliberative body will not vote until Tuesday morning – two days after the unemployment benefits have expired. There’s no agreement yet for a vote on the package, and it’s unclear what exactly the Senate will be voting on next week.
With the Senate slowing down, albeit just for a day or two, and Senior’s doctors appointments canceled for the same period, remember we have Jim Bunning to thank for giving us a taste of life under Obamacare. I may just have to let that anger from the perfect game go.