"Our Children and Grandchildren are not merely statistics towards which we can be indifferent" JFK

Friday, February 26, 2010

Senante adjourns withour passing unemployment benefits extension

Washington (CNN) -- The Senate adjourned Friday without approving extensions of cash and health insurance benefits for the unemployed, as well as a handful of other federal programs that run out Sunday, after a lone senator insisted that Congress pay for the $10 billion package.

Retiring Republican Sen. Jim Bunning of Kentucky led a spirited Senate debate with Democrats over the issue, at one time cursing while another senator spoke on the floor Thursday night.

Bunning said he doesn't oppose extending the programs but doesn't want to add to the deficit.

Democrats argued that the safety net funds are classified as "emergency" and therefore don't need to be paid for by cutting spending elsewhere or raising taxes.

With the Senate now not in a position to vote on the extensions until Tuesday at the earliest, senators and their staff members scrambled to determine the practical implication of letting the programs lapse, even if for just a few days.

In addition to funding unemployment insurance and the COBRA health insurance program for people who have lost their jobs, the bill would prevent a scheduled 21 percent cut in Medicare payments to doctors.

Those cuts will technically go into place when doctors' offices open Monday morning. But because there is a two-week delay processing Medicare payments, a short-term lapse of the program is unlikely to affect payments, according to experts in the medical community and a Senate Finance Committee aide.

Likewise, unemployment benefits could be delayed, but if Congress acts next week, as expected, the impact is likely to be minor, according to a Labor Department analyst. That's because Congress will likely approve the funds retroactively to make up for the missing days.

An aide to Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus confirmed that the Senate will try to pass the funds retroactively.

On Friday, Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-California, sent Bunning a letter asking him to "stand down immediately."

"Unemployment insurance is a lifeline to the long-term unemployed whose families have been hit very hard by this recession," Boxer wrote.

For his part, Bunning maintained Friday that if all senators could agree the benefits are so important, then they could find a way to pay for them.

"If we can't find $10 billion somewhere for a bill that everybody in this body supports, we will never pay for anything," he said.

Maybe it is time for you to stand down Ms. Boxer. You entered the halls of congress 27 years ago and with 27 years "experience" you can not figure out a way to pay for the $10 billion bill?

One of the reasons our grandchildren have a heap of debt already piled on their backs is the number of you "career" politicians that chose not to assume and implement prudent fiscal policy. Grandpa shares Mr. Bunning's support of the need to extend however he clearly believes the expense should not be shouldered by our grandkids.

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