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Senator Bunning Addresses 'Pay-Go' Controversy

This is a rush transcript from "Your World With Neil Cavuto," March 3, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, ANCHOR: And he is a one-man stand against big-government spending, and getting a whole heap of flak for it, even reports of death threats.

That man, Kentucky Republican Senator Jim Bunning, joins me now for this exclusive chat.

Senator, good to have you.

Much been happening this week?

SEN. JIM BUNNING R-KY.: Thank you.

No, this has been a routine week.

CAVUTO: Right. Right.

(LAUGHTER)

CAVUTO: Senator, I mean, you — you have been the butt, fairly or not, of a lot of jokes and a lot of commentary over the past week. We picked some of the more interesting comments. We just want to give this a peek.

(LAUGHTER)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART": Talking about Kentucky Senator Jim Bunning`s ongoing effort to single-handedly (EXPLETIVE DELETED) the extension of unemployment benefits for 1.1 million Americans.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALI VELSHI, CNN REPORTER: I bet you Senator Jim Bunning has someplace warm to sleep tonight. But the Republican from Kentucky is almost single- handedly responsible for cutting a vital financial lifeline to more than a million down-and-out Americans.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ED SCHULTZ, HOST, "THE ED SHOW": Is this the most heartless thing you have seen the Republicans do?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ED HENRY, CNN REPORTER: And, here in the Senate, that lone senator who had held up unemployment benefits was finally forced to relent.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEWART: You hear that, unemployed people, in the middle of one of the worst recessions in history? No 30-day extension of benefits until we balance the entire federal budget to Jim Bunning’s liking.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAVUTO: Senator, that was just some of the more choice examples.

How did you feel about all that?

BUNNING: Well, let me, first of all, say that it wasn’t about unemployment benefits. It was about paying for what we spend or paying for legislation, immediately after the president of the United States and the Democratic majority in the Senate passed a new pay-go bill that says specifically, Neil, that we should pay for everything that we spend on the floor of the U.S. Senate.

So, it wasn’t about all the nine different short extenders that were in the bill, because I have voted for them continuously. It was about, when I went to the last Budget Committee meeting, and they showed me what the projections were on the deficit, and the Obama budget would add $1.5 trillion to that deficit just next year.

And I looked at that, and I looked at my 40 grandkids, and I said, Jim, it’s not fair for you to pass that to your children and that to your grandkids, because it’s your generation that is spending that money. So, it wasn’t about unemployment benefits. It wasn’t about a dock fix. It wasn’t about satellite television.

It was about paying for what we do on the floor of the U.S. Senate.

CAVUTO: But many who agreed with you on principle wondered why you picked a fight over the jobless benefits, because even some of your Republican colleagues, sir, had said that was like was a no-win.

BUNNING: Well, a no-win or not win, I had an agreement with Senator Reid to get an up-or-down — finally, when we got to the fifth day, we tried to negotiate, and we got an agreement to have an up-or-down vote on my amendment to pay for these things, trying to get it settled once and for all.

And do you know what? They reneged. We didn’t get an up-or-down vote on my amendment. We got a point of order, a budget point of order, which obscures what happens. It never gives you a chance to vote up-or-down on paying for the bill. It says, oh, by the way, this — if we do this, there’s a budget point of order that lies against it. And...

CAVUTO: But, you know, you mentioned a point of order, Senator. Now, Harry Reid could have forced...

BUNNING: Oh, there were a lot of other alternatives.

CAVUTO: He could have been forced a cloture vote, invoked cloture, to get the 60 votes, which apparently he had, and could have shut you up, if that was his concern. And he didn’t.

Do you feel...

BUNNING: No. He wanted...

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: Do you feel that he wanted to use you just for political capital?

BUNNING: Well, sure. He wanted the issue, rather than solving the problem.

And he, just as much as anyone else, was responsible for cutting off those benefits, because he wouldn’t use normal procedure. He wouldn’t file cloture. He wouldn’t stay in over the weekend.

How many times do you think last year we stayed in over the weekend to solve a problem that was pressing, that we could have solved that, and nobody would have lost one benefit?

CAVUTO: So, what — on the pay-go rules, which essentially mean, you know, you pay for a program as you go along, in other words, you don’t just pile on, there were exceptions, apparently, this being among them, we’re told, other emergencies.

And the reason why I’m told that you had voted against pay-go was that these exceptions were glaring. Is that right?

BUNNING: Well, that’s one of the reasons.

But, even right now, Neil, on the floor of the U.S. Senate, we have this large extension of a bunch of extenders. And do you know that $104 billion in this bill is a declared emergency, and we’re not going to pay for it? So, not only did we do...

CAVUTO: In other words, you can create exceptions on the fly?

BUNNING: That’s exactly what they have done. And...

CAVUTO: OK. So, now, going forward, Senator, the question is going to be, since you were so singed on this, and Republicans, maybe save maybe Bob Corker of Tennessee or Jim DeMint of South Carolina, largely abandoned you, even though a good many more voted in synch with you, do you want to try getting your hand on this burner again? I mean, if this comes up again, will you do it again?

BUNNING: Well, I’m going to make sure that everybody knows I have two amendments on this bill right now that would pay for the non-paid-for emergency spending that is designated in this large extender bill.

I will probably get the same result. They will make a point of order that this spending that I have put in to pay for this $104 billion of unpaid extensions will be out of the order. But I’m not going to...

CAVUTO: But do you get — does it concern you, though, Senator, in the meantime, they’re trying to distance you, marginalize you? You’re not running for reelection. And they keep bringing up incidents of your — they say you’re quirky.

And this famous elevator incident comes to mind.

(LAUGHTER)

CAVUTO: I just want to peek — take a peek at this.

BUNNING: I’m quirky?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS REPORTER: ... people who are unemployed?

BUNNING: Excuse me. I have to go to the floor.

DANA BASH, CNN REPORTER: Senator, can you just explain why you’re holding this up? I’m sure you have an explanation.

BUNNING: Excuse me.

KARL: Are you concerned about those that are going to lose their benefits?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAVUTO: Are you concerned they keep flinging that back in your face?

BUNNING: I didn’t hear the question.

CAVUTO: Are you concerned they keep flinging that kind of stuff back in your face?

BUNNING: You mean the — the print — the local and print media, electronic media?

CAVUTO: Oh, I would include them all.

BUNNING: Of course not. Of course not. I have had this for 30 years, and, prior to that, for 22 years. So, I have been dealing with those wonderful people in the media, Neil, for 22 in baseball, and 30 in public service.

(LAUGHTER)

CAVUTO: Well, meanwhile, you have got...

BUNNING: And...

CAVUTO: ... this big pow-wow at the White House, to which you’re not invited, by the way, where...

BUNNING: Darn it.

CAVUTO: ... they’re celebrating the signatories of — of — of pay-as-you-go, even though they violated that, technically, last night.

What do you think of that?

BUNNING: Well, again — no. No, they violated on Reid’s first bill. Reid only paid for a third of that — that job bill that he put through.

Two-thirds of it were unpaid for, $10 billion. And $5 billion more was paid for. My unanimous consent held up 10 billion more dollars. And, finally, I tried last night. And, unfortunately, we lost, because they wouldn’t give us an up-or-down vote. And 410 billion more went to the deficit.

And the bill that is now on the floor has got 104 billion more dollars that is unpaid for. So, just in the last three bills since we passed pay-go, they are right at about $130 billion...

CAVUTO: All right.

BUNNING: ... that goes to the bottom of the deficit.

CAVUTO: OK. Senator Bunning...

BUNNING: The emperor has no clothes, Neil.

CAVUTO: Yes, I guess so.

Senator Bunning, very good having you. We wanted to hear your side of the story. I’m very happy that we did.

BUNNING: Always. Thank you for...

CAVUTO: Jim Bunning.

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