Why I took a stand
By Jim Bunning
I have been serving the citizens of Kentucky for nearly 24 years in Washington. During that time I have been a member of both the House of Representatives and the United States Senate. I have taken thousands of votes in relation to spending the taxpayers' money. I will be the first one to admit that I have cast some bad votes during my tenure, and I wish I could have some of them back. For too long, both Republicans and Democrats have treated the taxpayers' money as a slush fund that does not ever end. At some point, the madness has to stop.
Over a month ago, Democrats passed and President Obama signed into law the "Pay-Go" legislation. It calls on Congress to pay for bills by not adding to our debt. It sounds like a common sense tool that would rein in government spending. Unfortunately, Pay-Go is a paper tiger. It has no teeth. I did not vote for the Democrats' Pay-Go legislation because I knew it was just a political dog-and-pony show to get some good press after some political setbacks. Since the Pay-Go rule was enacted, the national debt has gone up $244,992,297,448.11 (as of Wednesday, that is).
Last week, Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., asked to pass a 30-day extensions bill for unemployment insurance and other federal programs. Earlier in February, those extensions were included in a broader bipartisan bill that was paid for but did not meet Sen. Reid's approval, and he nixed the deal. When I saw the Democrats in Congress were going to vote on the extensions bill without paying for it and not following their own Pay-Go rules, I said enough is enough.
Many people asked me, "Why now?" My answer is, "Why not now?" Why can't a non-controversial measure in the Senate that would help those in need be paid for? If the Senate cannot find $10 billion to pay for a measure we all support, we will never pay for anything.
America is under a mountain of debt. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said in a hearing last month that the United States' debt is unsustainable. We are on the verge of a tipping point where America's debt will bring down our economy, and more people will join the unemployment lines. That is why I used my right as a United States Senator and objected.
Only in Washington
After four legislative days of impasse, I reached a supposed deal with Majority Leader Reid to have an up-or-down vote on a pay-for amendment that would fully fund the legislation and not add to the debt. Only minutes before the vote, Democrats used a parliamentary maneuver to set aside my amendment and not vote on the actual substance of it. Only in Washington could this happen. The Democrats did not want to vote on my amendment because they knew they were in the wrong and ignored their own rules. Hypocrisy again rules the day in Washington.
I have 40 grandchildren, and I want them to grow up in a country where they have all of the same opportunities I had as a child. I fear that they will not have those opportunities if Washington continues on its course of spending without paying for it. We are at over $12 trillion in debt. I know many Americans sit around their kitchen table and make the tough decisions. It is time for the politicians in Washington to do the same.
Jim Bunning is a Republican senator from Kentucky.