Examiner Editorial: Bunning makes a point about federal spending 

Truckloads of abuse have been dumped on retiring Kentucky Republican Sen. Jim Bunning, who challenged Congress to heed its own rules and stop spending money it doesn’t have, specifically $10 billion for unemployment benefits, COBRA health insurance subsidies, transportation construction projects and much else.

Under its pay-as-you-go rules, Congress is not supposed to approve funding increases without an equal amount being cut elsewhere from the federal budget. That’s the law the Democratic majority in both chambers of Congress approved. President Barack Obama praised it, too, saying, “Now Congress will have to pay for what it spends, just like everybody else.”

Well, apparently not, because now, when Bunning takes them at their word, all he gets from Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the rest of the Democrats who voted for pay-go are bilious personal insults. Imagine how tense the atmosphere was Tuesday as a deal to end the deadlock was reached.

To be sure, Bunning was never a candidate for the Senate’s Mr. Congeniality, but then neither were past notable Senate mavericks like Connecticut’s Lowell Weicker, a frequently nettlesome soul who never missed an opportunity to poke a stick in President Ronald Reagan’s eye or those of his fellow Senate Republicans. In utter contrast to the bashing Bunning is getting, Weicker was praised for his “independence,” as when he almost single-handedly stopped Reagan’s proposal to shift $81 billion in federal revenue and related programs back to the states via block grants.

Unfortunately, the Bunning controversy obscured two fundamentally important points. First, either pay-go means something or it doesn’t. Just in case any of Bunning’s critics haven’t noticed, their credibility with the American people is at a historic low. Only 8 percent of the respondents in a February survey for The New York Times said they believe their members of Congress should be re-elected. And 81 percent said they trust the government only sometimes or never. Congress kills its credibility when it passes laws like pay-go and then ignores them.

Second, unlike his critics, Bunning has a realistic solution — use unspent funds from the $787 billion economic stimulus program — that wouldn’t add yet another $10 billion to the debt burden Congress is handing America’s children and grandchildren. It’s not like senators have no choice but to ignore pay-go. As Bunning said, “If we can’t find $10 billion to pay for something that we all support, we will never pay for anything on the floor of this U.S. Senate.”

And that’s exactly the problem: Washington, D.C.’s big spenders in Congress and the White House are out of control.

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Staff Report

Staff Report

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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