Last week, a one-man filibuster stalled the U.S. Senate in passing a bill that extends unemployment benefits to Americans who have been out of work the longest. The display was a microcosm of how bad partisanship has become in Congress.
Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky., launched a crusade to stop the bill from passing, keeping the Senate in session until midnight.
Bunning supported extending unemployment benefits and said his reasoning for holding up the $10 billion bipartisan bill was to make an example of irresponsible government spending. If that was the case, why pick a measly $10 billion to do it?
In the past decade, Bunning had a number of chances to stop larger amounts of money from being spent. He could have voted against the trillions of dollars poured into the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. If he didn’t want to anger his own party, he had his chance a year ago when the Obama administration pushed a $720 billion stimulus package through Congress.
Instead, he chose a bill that would have helped thousands of people and qualified as pocket change for the U.S. government.
“If we can’t find $10 billion to pay for something we all support, we will never pay for anything on the floor of the U.S. Senate,” Bunning told a group of reporters after the filibuster.
The problem there is that 100 elected officials of different backgrounds and districts probably couldn’t even agree to spend $5 on a foot-long Subway sandwich, much less the $10 billion needed for the bill at hand.
The point of the American government’s system is for the majority vote to win. If an anonymous vote was needed, nothing would ever get done.
Although Bunning eventually conceded his quest, his stance signified how one hard-headed individual can derail a government that, believe it or not, is supposed to function as one.
Chris Blake is a junior broadcast journalism major from Irving.