Senator Jim Bunning (R–KY, net worth $607,000*) continued his objection to a 30-day extension in federal unemployment benefits and highway funding reimbursements today, after successfully stopping the bill on a point of parliamentary procedure Thursday. Yesterday morning, two thousand federal transportation workers were furloughed without pay, thanks to Bunning’s insistence that a specific funding source be identified for the $10 billion bill and, presumably, the rest of the $3.8 trillion federal budget. On a more personal level, my father had his last day of work on Monday, having opted not to retire on Friday so that he would be eligible for COBRA health insurance through the end of March. That program, too, has been suspended, and now my father does not have health insurance because a Hall of Fame pitcher from Kentucky has taken it upon himself to end the welfare state. Bunning repeatedly affirmed his objection even as Democratic senators pointed out unemployment numbers in Kentucky, expressed their dismay at being kept up late, and generally employed the means by which an old man is made to feel shame. While Bunning was overheard swearing and complaining that he’d been “ambushed,” he held to his resolve, and the bill could not come to a vote. Which brings us to where we are now.
One of two narratives describes the Obama presidency, and if you tell me which one is true I can tell you which 24-hour news network you watch. Either President Barack Hussein Obama is a nouveau socialist whose cult of personality has allowed him to expand federal power to an unprecedented degree, or the Republican minority in Congress has put politics ahead of the best interests of the country and paralyzed the Hill with unrelenting obstructionism. We here at Combat! would never tell you what to believe,* but only one of these narratives has been fleshed out with a lot of scenes. Two weeks ago, Senate Republicans finally released the hold they had placed on Martha Johnson, the woman President Obama nominated seven months ago to head the General Services Administration. If you’ve never heard of the GSA, it’s probably because you are not a wholesale distributor of toilet paper and cleaning supplies; the agency’s primary task is to oversee the day-to-day maintenance of the Capitol and related buildings. Johnson was eventually confirmed with a vote of 94-2, suggesting that she was perhaps not such a controversial nominee after all. While an extreme example, she was just one of dozens of qualified applicants on whose nominations the GOP has placed holds, whether to ransom them for pet projects or out of a spirit of general dicketry. While calling the Republicans obstructionists seems unfair—they are the opposition party, after all—the discrepancy between their principled objections and their voting records is beginning to suggest that they’re playing politics, not government.