Jim Bunning Gives America The Finger

Last week Senator Jim Bunning swore as he stopped passage by unanimous consent of extensions for federal unemployment payments, COBRA subsidies, and a Medicare pay fix. Today he resorted to finger gestures.

Besides blocking unemployment and COBRA benefits the bill held up funding for the federal Flood Insurance Program, which could delay real estate closings. The Department of Transportation furloughed two thousand workers without pay and is suspending construction projects due to a lack of funding.

The measure would have also prevented an automatic twenty-one percent reduction in Medicare reimbursements to physicians due to a flawed payment formula. It is expected that if this persists many physicians will reduce the  number of Medicare and Tricare patients they will see.

The Senate will try to attach this funding to other measures later this week and it is possible that some of this funding will be restored. CMS has ordered a ten day delay in processing Medicare payments in the hopes that the cuts will be eliminated before then. It is not clear as to whether the missed unemployment benefits will still be paid at a later date.

Update: E.J. Dionne ties this into an attempt to reduce the estate tax:

Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) has put a hold on the extension bill, but one of the key reasons the measure is blocked is the effort of Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) to use it as a way of forcing a cut in the estate tax. Kyl is essentially leveraging the unemployed to get a deal on estate tax relief that would cost $138 billion over the next decade, according to estimates by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. The estate tax has already been cut sharply, so the reduction Kyl is pushing along with Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) would affect the estates of fewer than three out of every 1,000 deceased, according to the Tax Policy Center.

The proposal helps estates worth more than $7 million in the case of couples. I guess struggling millionaires deserve the same empathy we feel for those without a job.

How To Really Escalate Partisan Fighting

If things aren’t bad enough, here’s a recommended solution to the partisan gridlock which I cannot see result in anything other than making matters worse. Stan Isaacs writes:

This may come as a surprise to some people, but the U.S. Constitution does not specify the size of the Supreme Court.

The original Judiciary Act of 1789 set the number of justices at six. It shrank to five in 1801. It expanded to seven in 1807. It grew to nine in 1837 and 10 in 1863. It fell back to seven in 1866. It returned to nine in 1869 and has remained at that number since.

Political issues accounted for the changes. The Federalists reduced the number to five, hoping to deprive Thomas Jefferson of an appointment. The incoming Democrats repealed that measure, raising the number to seven. It went to nine in 1837 to give Andrew Jackson two more seats. Civil War issues led to more fluctuations before the court settled at nine under President Ulysses Grant.

So if nine justices is not writ in stone, the embattled President Obama should deal with this hostile conservative/reactionary court by adding three members.

Anyone really think that this has a shot of getting past a filibuster? It is doubtful that the Democrats could get all fifty-nine members who caucus with them to go along with such appointments. They would never get a 60th vote, and in the meantime Republicans would increase their support with justifiable cries of packing the court.

Leno Returns Tonight

Is everyone on Team Coco going to watch Letterman to mess up Leno’s ratings?

Posted in Television. Tags: . No Comments »