Oklahoma Senator Puts Hold On Unemployment Benefits Extension
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn is blocking a bill that would temporarily extend unemployment benefits, in order to make a point about federal spending.
Last month, Kentucky Republican Jim Bunning blocked a similar extension of jobless benefits before removing his hold.
This time it's Senator Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican.
Senator Coburn says his intent is to force the Senate to pay for the $9.15 billion "Continuing Extension Act of 2010" with reductions in spending to less vital programs.
"With Congress just agreeing to spend $2.6 trillion on a new entitlement program it is more important than ever for Congress to start making hard choices about spending priorities," said Senator Coburn. "Continuing on our path of borrowing and spending without restraint will lead us off a financial cliff."
When Senator Bunning blocked the last extension about a month ago, it caused an interruption in unemployment benefits eligibility for some people and gave some Transportation Department employees a two-day furlough.
It's not clear how far Senator Coburn is willing to push the issue this time around. But he does say it's time for Congress to control its spending.
"This is the fifth 'short term' extenders bill considered by the Senate in the last year, none of which have been paid for. It is time for Congress to get serious about proposing long-term solutions rather than offering short-term excuses. We cannot afford another debt extenders bill," Dr. Coburn said.
According to the senator's office, Thursday afternoon the Senate voted 59 to 40 to block a proposal backed by Dr. Coburn to extend unemployment benefits that are paid for with reductions in spending.
"The 59 Senators who voted no may be the only 59 people in the country who believe the federal government is running at peak efficiency and can't be trimmed to pay for unemployment benefits for families who are struggling," said John Hart, communications director for Senator Coburn.