While Republican Sen. Jim Bunning of Kentucky continues to block legislation that would keep some federal programs functioning, Florida is one of the states that stands to suffer the most. The hold Bunning has placed on the legislation affects jobless benefits for thousands of unemployed workers, rural television customers, doctors receiving Medicare payments and others. Bunning wants the $10-billion price of extending the programs offset by reductions in spending elsewhere in the budget to not drive up the deficit.
The Department of Transportation furloughed nearly 2,000 employees without pay Monday as the government began to feel the impact of Republican Sen. Jim Bunning’s one-man blockage of legislation that would keep a host of federal programs operating.
“As American families are struggling in tough economic times, I am keenly disappointed that political games are putting a stop to important construction projects around the country,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement. “This means that construction workers will be sent home from job sites because federal inspectors must be furloughed.”
Federal projects shut down include more than $38 million in project funding for Idaho’s Nez Perce National Forest and Fernan Lakes Idaho Panhandle National Forest and $86 million for bridge replacements in the Washington, D.C., area. Bunning’s home state of Kentucky has no projects affected by his action.
However, nearly 1.2 million unemployed workers, including 14,000 in Kentucky, would lose federal jobless benefits this month if Congress doesn’t extend them, according to the National Employment Law Project, a liberal-leaning research group. The U.S. Labor Department estimates that about one-third will lose benefits in the first two weeks of the month.
Letting the highway program lapse could mean an estimated 90,000 jobs lost. As many as 2 million families could lose access to local television because a copyright law expired overnight.
States hardest hit by the Monday cutoff, according to the law project, would be California, where an estimated 201,274 people could lose help, and Florida, where the total is an estimated 105,016. Other potential state totals: Georgia, 48,284; Texas, 82,850 and Illinois, 65,431.
The Department of Labor calculations show that 400,000 people will lose unemployment benefits if the Senate isn’t able to break Sen. Bunning’s block of an extension.
The White House sent the state-by-state totals to regional reporters last night. Bunning’s Kentucky is at the low end, with 4,300 people affected. Florida has one of the higher totals of 49,000, as a result of Congress not extending jobless benefits.
That’s 49,000 people who will their unemployment insurance in the State of Florida for the week ending March 13.
Bunning doesn’t really care though, because he has other “important” concerns.
“I have missed the Kentucky-South Carolina game that started at 9:00 and it’s the only redeeming chance we had to beat South Carolina since they’re the only team that has beat Kentucky this year,” he said on the Senate floor Friday
And how did Sen. Bunning respond to those who wanted him to drop his objections? Two words:
Bunning stated during his arguments that unemployment benefits were akin to paying people who don’t want to work, or were too lazy to get a job. Given that Bunning is a member in good standing along with his partners in obstruction in the “Party of No,” he’s getting paid quite nicely for doing nothing more than trying to bring the government to a halt. His obstruction here is really just a lazy man’s filibuster.
Yesterday part of his reasoning for blocking the benefits for others was that he didn’t think any such thing should go forward that couldn’t be paid for.
By that standard, then perhaps he would be willing to give up his salary as well?
Why not put your salary where your mouth is, Sen. Bunning?