Congress gives American taxpayers an impolite salute 

It took an irascible former baseball player who’s retiring from the U.S. Senate to reveal the shameless hypocrisy of the hustlers who masquerade as members of Congress these days.

The deadline for passing a $10 billion extension of unemployment benefits came and went Sunday as both parties tried to pass the buck.

Democrats wanted to bypass the “pay as you go” law they just passed — and which President Barack Obama signed into law on Feb. 12 — so they could extend unemployment insurance, COBRA benefits, Medicaid payments, child tax credits and small business loans without having to make any corresponding budget cuts.

Republicans went along because they didn’t want to look like they were against helping the unemployed as they head into the November elections.

Enter Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky., described by Capitol Hill insiders as a cranky misanthrope whose one-man opposition infuriated partisans in both parties. Bunning’s “single-digit salute” to ABC News producer Z. Byron Wolf as he was trying to interview him had the blogosphere aflutter with indignation. But Bunning’s justification for opposing the unemployment extension was right down the middle of the strike zone:

“If we can’t find $10 billion to pay for something that we all support,” Bunning frankly told his Senate colleagues, “we will never pay for anything on the floor of the U.S. Senate.” It doesn’t get any clearer — or truer — than that.

Congress’ consistent refusal to obey its own rules and pay for its largesse is the main reason the U.S. economy is in the tank in the first place. Our national debt now exceeds $12 trillion — an unimaginable sum that will impoverish future generations. Yet Congress still cranks out spend now-pay later bills that keep adding to our debt.

After spending billions on political favors to ensure they kept their own jobs, members of Congress had nothing but IOUs for constituents who lost theirs. Don’t blame Bunning for pointing that out, or for exposing Congress as it gave its own middle-finger salute to American taxpayers. Unfortunately, the consequences of choices made well before Sunday will now primarily fall on people already down on their luck.

The Senate majority leader could have scheduled a vote to extend unemployment benefits well before the deadline, or called for a cloture vote instead of trying to pass it at the last minute by unanimous consent, which would have made Bunning’s one-man stand irrelevant.

Instead, Reid decided that passing his tourist bill last week was more important that helping 15 million unemployed Americans stay afloat just a little bit longer.

Heckuva job, Brownie.

Barbara F. Hollingsworth is The Washington Examiner’s local opinion editor.

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