TODAY IS ‘THANK JIM BUNNING DAY’…. It’s hard to overstate how absurd these developments really are.
Two thousand federal transportation workers will be furloughed without pay on Monday, and the Obama administration said they have a Kentucky senator to blame for it.
Federal reimbursements to states for highway programs will also be halted, the Transportation Department said in a statement late Sunday. The reimbursements amount to about $190 million a day, according to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
The furloughs and freeze on payments were the result of a decision last week by Republican Sen. Jim Bunning to block passage of legislation that would have extended federal highway and transit programs, the department said. Those programs expired at midnight Sunday.
The extension of transportation programs was part of a larger package of government programs that also expired Sunday, including unemployment benefits for about 400,000 Americans.
Remember, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) agreed on a measure to extend the funding, but Sen. Jim Bunning (R) of Kentucky, who has occasionally seemed mentally unstable in recent years, single-handedly blocked unanimous consent and generated this fiasco.
When a Democratic senator implored Bunning to be reasonable, and understand the consequences of his obstructionism, the far-right Republican senator said, “Tough shit.”
Today we’ll see some of the fallout, with construction workers being sent home from the job on a variety of projects, and temporary furloughs affecting employees at the Federal Highway Administration, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Research, and Innovative Technology Administration. All of this, of course, is on top of Bunning also blocking extended unemployment benefits.
Bunning’s Republican colleagues assured the public over the weekend that the funding will resume and that the Senate will approve a measure this week. But even the fix isn’t as simple as it sounds.
Judy Conti, a lobbyist for the [National Employment Law Project], said that even when Bunning is eventually thwarted and the extension is passed, state governments will still have to deal with the extra administrative costs of shutting down and restarting the extended benefits programs.
“Once the program is retroactively reauthorized, the federal government is going to send the same amount of money, but his own state government is going to have to spend even more money,” Conti said.
“What happened last night was an absolute disgrace. There is a time and a place a purpose for debate on deficit reduction, but you don’t make your stand on the back of the unemployed. It is ill-informed, counter productive and just cruel.”
If the Senate were able to function just a little better, this nonsense wouldn’t even be possible.