Senate adjourns without extending unemployment, COBRA benefits

by: Chris Bowers

Fri Feb 26, 2010 at 19:16

The Senate has adjourned for the weekend without passing an extension of unemployment and COBRA benefits.  The immediate reason for this is Kentucky Senator Jim Bunning:

Jim Bunning, a Republican from Kentucky, is single-handedly blocking Senate action needed to prevent an estimated 1.2 million American workers from prematurely losing their unemployment benefits next month.

As Democratic senators asked again and again for unanimous consent for a vote on a 30-day extension Thursday night, Bunning refused to go along.

And when Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) begged him to drop his objection, Politico reports, Bunning replied: "Tough shit."

This is horrifying. 1.2 million people are about to lose their unemployment benefits because of Senate rules.

Democrats can blame Bunning, but why did they adjourn?  Further, why do so many continue to defend procedural rules that make something like this possible?

Democrats are going to get blamed for this, too.  People who lose their unemployment benefits are not going to think "oh, this happened because one Senator refused to agree to a unanimous consent on a motion to proceed, so I'll blame that Senator."  No.  That isn't going to happen.

Democrats are in charge, and they are going to get blamed for this.  Democratic attempts to blame this on Senate procedure will ring utterly hollow.  Not only do people not understand, or care about, those rules, but it simply sounds wimpy and pathetic for the people running the United States Government to throw their hands up in the air and say "our procedural rules prevented us from doing anything to solve this huge problem. Sorry."

Democrats did not have to adjourn.  They could have kept fighting Bunning.  Further, they all agreed to the rules under which the Senate operates, and most of them are still defending those rules.  Blaming Senate procedure is not going to extend anyone's unemployment or COBRA benefits, and its not going to win many hearts around the country.

Sure, Jim Bunning is currently the biggest asshole in the country right now.  However, if you think that procedure is a problem, then start working to change the procedure.  If you think that unemployment benefits need to be extended, then don't adjourn for the weekend when those benefits are slated to run out.  

Chris Bowers :: Senate adjourns without extending unemployment, COBRA benefits

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2 possibilities (4.00 / 8)
a) Because despite the public branding, they really don't give a shit other than about how they get along with their friends in the Senate.

b) They have secretly been replaced with pod people who have some super secret plan that will validate all the trust that people seem to have in them that again and again is proven to be unfounded.

Meanwhile, 1 mil people are having to sweat the weekend wondering how they are going to pay their bills after hoping against hope that change you can believe in meant something more than more of the same.  

It is not just a failure of the Senate (0.00 / 0)
It is also a failure of the White House to not hold the Dems feet to the fire AND to not hold the Republicans feet to the fire.  The President had the possibility of a win-win situation by speaking out to encourage the Senate to keep working and to publicly berate the person who created this roadblock.  But that would be so un-bipartisan.  

"Oh. My. God. .... We're doomed." -- Paul Krugman

[ Parent ]
I agree, but I wanted to focus on the Senate here (4.00 / 2)
and the continued pretense that it is not the whole of the Democratic leadership. Often in focusing on one or another individual the assumption seems to be that the problem is not systemic, when in fact it is an entire generation of Democrats. The mindset is pervasive. This is why nothing gets done. Not policy. Not process. Not party. It is about the character of the leadership. But, that point is rarely discussed as a group dynamic issue.

[ Parent ]
The problem is the money (0.00 / 0)
The leadership class has been bought.  Beginning with Clinton and the DLCC they felt the way to compete with the Neocons was to emulate them.  Why reinvent the wheel, right?  The sad truth that many never realize is that the pursuit of money is the root of all evil.  When you get right down to it, the government is filled with hookers, the banks are run by hookers, the medical professions are filled with hookers, the insurance companies are pimps, and unfortunately, the middle class has it's share of greed.  There doesn't seem to be a desire to make America better.  The refusal by the public to adequately fund their governments is the reason our infrastructure is decaying.  

"Oh. My. God. .... We're doomed." -- Paul Krugman

[ Parent ]
No doubt (4.00 / 3)
This is some deeply reprehensible horseshit.

I turned on CSpan 2 to see the Dems... (4.00 / 1)
... make me proud, and instead saw my own Mark Udall move "without objection" to adjourn until Monday.  

John McCain won't insure children

Maybe we should pay ol' Mark a visit (4.00 / 1)
while he's back in Colorado this weekend since Congress has adjourned at his motion.  As a true man of the people, I'm sure his schedule is posted online so his constituents can share their concerns with him face-to-face.

Oh, wait, checking his web site, I see that we can schedule a 'meet-and-greet' when we're in DC, but as for meeting him here, is there a listing of what his appearances will be? Uh, no.  

For a man of the people, Mark sure likes to hide out from them.


Decarbonize, Deglobalize, Demilitarize

[ Parent ]
Surprise, Surprise (4.00 / 2)
The Democrats will be so shocked when they get massacred in November.  I can't wait to see what reasons they come up with.

Senate adjournment (4.00 / 4)
How horrifying!  The thought that they would have to actually work "overtime" on the weekend to pass something for Americans.  Who do these people represent anyway?  They sure would have been fired if they worked for the same company I worked for before I retired.  If there was work to be done you stayed and got it done - did not matter the time or the date - I stayed over many a holiday or came in to get things done.  I hope every unemplyed person out there votes their incumbant out of office.  Too bad they will continued to get paid even after they leave office.  This is just disgusting.  They probably all left to go charge high dollar dinners on our tax dollars while we eat macaroni and cheese.

Watched the whole pitiful thing,, (4.00 / 8)
My two best buddies rely on that extension to pay their rents, so I could no more walk away from the debate than Durbin or Whitehouse or McCaskill or Sanders or Casey or Begich or Merkley could't walk off the Senate floor.

Durbin did his respectable damndest to keep the pressure on Bunning  - so did the others.
Reid today put out this rather respectable statement:
"The catch here is that these benefits do not need to expire. We have the ability right now to extend them for just a short time until we work out a longer-term solution.
"It is irresponsible not to. It is immoral."

And then they adjourned, respectfully.

When you've become so permanently branded as cowards because under no circumstances do you ever stand up for anything you believe in and all the other side needs to do now is send out hacks like donkey-boy Bunning to stop you dead in your tracks, you don't belong in 21st century politics.

Why didn't anyone from our side threaten to rescind all the stimulus money from Kentucky for example and every other Red state mother fu**** who opposed the stimulus and use that money to get pass the bill??

Without strategic planning against a bastard of an enemy- Reid and those of his Senate Democrats who refuse to speak out are personally responsible for every day of suffering my buddies and every other American continues to go through.  
It's you and your friends Harry Reid, who are the most irresponsible and immoral. Not a bunch of dim-witted sore losers.  

Nationalism is not the same thing as terrorism, and an adversary is not the same thing as an enemy.

Worth repeating (4.00 / 2)
When you've become so permanently branded as cowards because under no circumstances do you ever stand up for anything you believe in and all the other side needs to do now is send out hacks like donkey-boy Bunning to stop you dead in your tracks, you don't belong in 21st century politics.

Self-refuting Christine O'Donnell is proof monkeys are still evolving into humans

[ Parent ]
Seriously (0.00 / 0)
When you've become so permanently branded as cowards because under no circumstances do you ever stand up for anything you believe in and all the other side needs to do now is send out hacks like donkey-boy Bunning to stop you dead in your tracks, you don't belong in 21st century politics.


Seeing The Forest -- Who is our economy FOR, anyway? Twitter: dcjohnson

[ Parent ]
Where is President Obama tonight? (4.00 / 8)
Well said, Chris!  I would just add one (probably very unpopular) thing:   President Obama is the leader of the Democratic Party.  Where was he?  Why wasn't he standing on the White House lawn with a bunch of photogenic people whose benefits were running out, demanding that Congress stay in session, day and night, until this bill is passed?   Why wasn't he exhorting Senate Democrats to make the Republicans actually, publicly, in front of the whole world shut down the U.S. Senate to prevent Americans who are in need from getting help?  Why isn't he and every other member of this administration going on television highlighting the stories of people who need their benefits extended because times are hard and they are hurting?  Why isn't he pointing the finger at the Republicans? Where is he tonight, when there are Americans who need his help?

I really don't understand his silence and the callous inaction of my fellow Democrats.  I know it's supposed to be good to have a "cool" president.  And he truly is a great improvement on Bush.  But sometime cool turns into really cold. This would be a really good time for some drama.  Maybe the guy needs to turn off the central heating at the White House and cut back on food for awhile just to get more in touch with the people he just turned his back on.

And, yes, I would extend those sentiments to every Democratic senator who screwed these needy people just for the sake of "Senate Traditions" and being able to spend the weekend in their warm, comfortable homes.

And, by way of anticipating some responses, I would just say that my criticism is focused on President Obama not because he is more to blame but rather because he is the leader of my party. And I wanted my party to act to help Americans who are in desperate need.  Tonight, I am ashamed of being a Democrat.  My party and it's weak, pathetic  leaders are  shameful.    

Very few Obamabots here, thankfully, so no worries. (0.00 / 0)
You raise a crucial question about the administration. Indeed, where the (bleep) were they? Did Obama's political director somehow miss this vote? Why couldn't they make the requisite phone calls and demand Bunning be made to filibuster until he collapsed, so they could pass this thing before the Sunday deadline?

I would suggest this happened the way it did because the White House wanted it to happen this way. They just had their little HCR Kabuki, in which to make Barack Hoover Obama look all serious and shit... only to let this happen while everyone else was distracted with that phony Obamapalooza at the White House.

Granted, I'm probably more cynical than most, but the timing and smoothness in which this simple micro-bill was allowed to die due to the lunatic rantings of one KY Senator who is retiring anyway is just too (bleeping) convenient to my mind. I suppose they think they can just blame the Whinging Loon From KY on this, but I expect that will have a shelf life of roughly 30 seconds in the real world of suffering human beings.

Sadly, this really looks like the first round of many rounds of Shock Treatment being delivered to the sad sacks (including me) who voted for these D-Bags. Tossing 1.2 million people to the proverbial wolves is simply not what people voted for in November 2008. Or 2006, for that matter.

If this shit continues, it will become impossible for "progressives" to show their face in public without having shoes and shit being thrown at them.

Perhaps that is the real point in all this.

"More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly." -Woody Allen, My Speech to the Graduates

[ Parent ]
Obama is partly at fault...however.. (4.00 / 1)
On this issue I would never say they wanted this to happen.  But it happened a result of the appeasement style leadership of the Senate and the White House who may have finally learned that money won't buy them love.

Nationalism is not the same thing as terrorism, and an adversary is not the same thing as an enemy.

[ Parent ]
I don't think it's even relevant whether they "wanted it to happen" or not. (4.00 / 2)
We can talk about spinelessness, appeasement, mental laziness or what have you. That's fine, but it misses the point.

My point is they just don't give a damn about the damage they are doing to the people of this country. Put this in the context of Obama's Cat Food Commission. We can hand out hundreds of billions in free cash to his Wall Street pals but we can't afford to help people who are unemployed because of his Wall Street pals' criminal greed? But again, it's not just about the WH. This extends to the rest of leadership as well.

Additionally yesterday, the House renewed the unreformed Patriot Act with significant "progressive" support. The Senate passed it by a cowardly voice vote.

In their morning meeting, did UE extension ever come up? I dunno. Should it have and should they have cracked some heads to make sure this didn't occur? Absolutely.

Whether it's incompetence or malice against the "little people," the result is the same either way.

It's not just Obama. It's his entire team. It's not just Bunning, it's the Dems who let him off the hook. This is a massive problem. The neo-libs in DC are going to crush the progressive movement if this keeps up. Perhaps that's part of their point.

"More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly." -Woody Allen, My Speech to the Graduates

[ Parent ]
re: obama (4.00 / 4)

imagine if the senate adjourned without passing war funding while bush was president

bush would've chew them a new one...

[ Parent ]
Not a dime's worth of difference. (4.00 / 3)
imagine if the senate adjourned without passing war funding while bush Obama was president

bush Obama would've chew them a new one...

Hence financial elite money and support shifted to the Moderates, on the proviso that the Moderates did not disturb the Confederate architecture of George W. Bush. No major part of the Bush legacy has been overturned by Obama. None. No major part of the Bush legacy is on the calendar to be overturned. None. Obama's money mandate is to Do Bush Right. link

[ Parent ]
The problem with focusing on Obama isn't (4.00 / 1)
that he is without blame, it's that it's far harder to pressure him than individual Senators.  Obama remains, like all presidents, in the bubble in DC, while Senators are returning to their states.  That gives us the opportunity to turn up the heat on each one of them.  I'd prefer to focus on the people we have the most leverage over.

I don't want to take away from your point - this is a failure of leadership by Obama, and he does bear special responsibility for this as the leader of the party. I don't mean to absolve him, only to reframe the question as what we can do next.

Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity.

[ Parent ]
HCR summit shows they get it, crap like this shows they don't...really (4.00 / 2)
I'm sorry, I can't help it, watching Obama in the HCR summit raised my expectations about Dems--like, that they would behave like something other than timid, get-along-to-go-along self-absorbed egomaniacs and actually do something to HELP people. And let nothing stand in their way!

Nah. It's all chin music.

I just pegged a hot outraged letter to both my senators more or less echoing the points made in these comments. (Literally wrote, at one point, "what on earth is WRONG with you people!!??" like Jane Kaczmarek yelling at Malcolm and Reese. Much good it'll do.)

Had called Sen. Schumer's office earlier this afternoon to express my outrage, and the aide I talked to seemed to be equally outraged and more or less endorsed my position. But there must have been a golf outing somewhere sunny this weekend, or something more important than 1 million plus unemployed.

I'm serious about the "raising expectations only to dash them" thing. I experienced that with Clinton in the '92 campaign when he gave a humanistic, enlightened, self-aware, humble and deeply wise interview to Bill Greider and Jann Wenner at Rolling Stone. He really seemed to get how we all live.

Once he became president, his goal became to DEMONSTRATE how well he got citizens' troubles, without the inconvenient burdent of feeling moved to DO anything about it.

That was the last time I got seriously jazzed about a presidential candidate. But I did let my expectations get raised by Obama, just a bit, only to have them dashed by Democrats' willingness to let a spittle-flecked sociopath determine the fate of our unemployed.    

Paul Wellstone is spinning in his grave. (n/t) (4.00 / 4)

Hi Chris (4.00 / 1)
Hi Chris,

I've been following your website for a while and I really lie a lot of the things you guys put out. I've written an essay about health insurance reform, and I'm trying to post it as a diary, but I can't figure out how to do it. Are instructions available?

Brian King


Welcome Brian (0.00 / 0)
Upper right side, to the right of the "Join Open Left Action" box and the "National House Ballot" box is a link titled "Write A Diary."

Self-refuting Christine O'Donnell is proof monkeys are still evolving into humans

[ Parent ]
Too bad (4.00 / 1)
that guy didn't fly his plane into Capitol Hill

Extraordinary progressive star in the making

Its like the Dems are trying to lose (4.00 / 4)
this November.  If they made Bunning fight all weekend the News would have been over it. This would have made the Dems look like the party of the people and the Repugs like the party of uncaring fools.

Sad just Sad.

Corker said we should sympathize with his 'age'... (4.00 / 1)
Apparently Bunning isn't liked by his own side. But Corker so sympathized with his old colleague that he drove back to the Senate to defend his old pal from the mean old Dems keeping him up so late.
Then Bunning whines he should have been watching the game, instead.

Both sides seem to have forgotten when a vote was important to them, that Senator Byrd was willingly dragged out in the middle of a freezing night in a wheelchair to make sure that bill passed.  

Nationalism is not the same thing as terrorism, and an adversary is not the same thing as an enemy.

[ Parent ]
Bunning (4.00 / 2)
Bunning probably literally did not know what he was doing.  He likely has had Alzheimer's for years.  What excuse do the other 99 have?

He certainly hasn't forgotten (0.00 / 0)
How to be a whore for business.

"Oh. My. God. .... We're doomed." -- Paul Krugman

[ Parent ]
During the Great Depression (4.00 / 4)
politicians acted boldly because they were scared of the people.  Right now, the only people the politicians are scarred of are the tea partiers.  

That said, having screwed us yet again, these Dems have headed home, where they will be among their constituents. It seems like a great opportunity to go give them an ear full.

They will not respect us until they fear us.

Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity.

The greatest fear (0.00 / 0)
Is the loss of donations from the corporations.

"Oh. My. God. .... We're doomed." -- Paul Krugman

[ Parent ]
Any one of them could've objected to adjournment (4.00 / 5)
The GOP doesn't fear Reid or Obama. There's never any price to pay for bad behavior. Basic political Fail.

Any single Democrat with a full set (of convictions) could've objected to adjournment. None did. The gelded lot of them all deserve to lose...

...Adding, I truly fear it's going to take a generational turnover (and another 20 years) of sweeping these loser Democrats out before any real change can be effected. Very depressing for those of us in our 50's...

Self-refuting Christine O'Donnell is proof monkeys are still evolving into humans

Of all the times to keep the Senate open over the weekend (4.00 / 1)
this was it. Reid blew it, as usual.

An actual person affected by this... (4.00 / 3)
My mother-in-law emailed my partner and me the other day, saying that her unemployment benefits were about to expire.She was laid off last August from her job through no fault of her own: the not-for-profit she worked for was running out of money to pay employees. Her plan when her unemployment benefits expire is to start living off of her IRA money--she didn't say how much she had, but we think she may be able to live on it for a few months before she literally runs out of money to live on. She has been a model American while unemployed: she has searched diligently for a job, taken temp work from as many agencies as would have her, and living as thriftily as possible. She is 60 years old and skilled enough that she is qualified for many jobs. She just can't get one.

As for me, I would say that any human being who uses Senate rules to evade the moral responsibility of taking care of vulnerable people is not much of a human being. Of course, her family will take care of my mother-in-law to the extent that we can, but who do these Senators think they are? They can help people, and they just don't because "tough shit"? It is very tough shit out here in the real world where the suffering is also very real.  

Unemployed (0.00 / 0)
Sorry to hear about your mother in law.  I have an unemployed brother who is 52 and living with us.  He goes out everyday looking for work and has only been able to find a few one - three day jobs.  I dread when his old car finally dies since we don't have public transportation and the only way to get anywhere is by car.  My husband is being patience but he asks all the timw when is he going to move out. Just about everybody I know is helping out a family member.  I hate that the federal govt spends so much money bailing out the financial institutions and then they get big bonuses but whine they can't do anything about it.  Then the so called stimulus from over a year ago still has not put out all it money - how can they call for more spending when they can't figure out what to do with what they have authorized already.  I suppose the next thing will be we can't stop the war because we will put all those munition companies out of business.

[ Parent ]
Scandoulous, corrupt, immoral... and STUPID! (4.00 / 1)
Allowing unemployment benefits to expire does not only hurts recipients; it immediately halts circulation of dollars into the real economy, which could actually eventually lead to more layoffs as demand falls further.

[ Parent ]
Still trying to post my diary (0.00 / 0)
Hi Chris,

I tried that "write a diary" link a couple of times and I seem to get pretty far, but not all the way. I'm able to edit and preview my diary, but I don't see a "publish" or "post" button. I tried the "save" button and I got something in red that looked like it might be some sort of error message. Any suggestions?  

what did the error message say? (0.00 / 0)
also, try deleting openleft cookies and logging back in afterwards. then retry posting?

[ Parent ]
It is truly telling that these Democrats did not see the consequences of adjourning. (0.00 / 0)
Or, perhaps, didn't care.  I think day by day the American people are seeing how truly incompetent the political system is at maintaining a sound economic structure for the people and the commons.  On Monday, unless there is a quick resolution, the media will lay this all at the feet of the party in power and the public will buy it.  I almost believe that the Dems want to lose in November so they can move on to their K Street jobs.  

"Oh. My. God. .... We're doomed." -- Paul Krugman

I'm all for procedural rules For example: municipal court is a license to steal (0.00 / 0)
The judge will open the court and read you MIranda. Then everyone walks up and is told to plead guilty or not guilty. As soon as you plead either one you acknowledge the court's jurisdiction over you.

So instead you say, "I cannot plead without advice of counsel."

This will give you 30-60 days to find counsel. Then you call a few lawyers and/or go to see one or two. (You don't want a lawyer.)

When you go back before the judge you say I saw so and so on such and such a date, or called x on y date, or had a meeting and his fee was more than I could afford. I need more time to find counsel.

So you get another 30-60 days.

You keep doing this because they cannot force you to judgement or trial without counsel. (If they do-and they often do- then you have an auto appeal.)

I have been going since June on my garden that the mayor cut down. Last week the assistant prosecutor offered me $22 in court costs and 6 months probation. I turned it down. (It was tempting tho.)

I see poor people plead completely unaware of their rights or procedural rules. They get scammed and the city gets their money. This money never gets accounted for either. It just sort of goes into a box.

If you don't have any money then you appeal on affadavit of poverty. If they sentence you and fine you then you appeal. Then you are in circuit court where you have all your constitutional rights. You start the same thing all over again. You hang them up for years. It takes time so it takes political commitment.

A speeding ticket. Well when was the last time the cop had his meter calibrated? How often does it need to be done to be accurate? If we citizens used procedural rules against them we could seize power.

Foucault says that the only way we can seize power is to use their rules against them. Try it. It works.

A blue letter day (0.00 / 0)
Those Senate Dems achieve something at last!

We now have a discrete, concise, memorable instance where they showed their true colors.

Whenever Chris or Mike or anyone gets Pollyanna on our ass - on sidecar reconciliation, for instance - we need only recall Bunning the Benefit Bastard to ensure we make a reality-based assessment of the situation.


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