The White House and allied Democrats clearly see the obstructionism of Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) over an extension of unemployment benefits as an opportunity to put a spotlight on -- and extract a political price for -- Republican foot-dragging.
On Monday White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said he was "trying as best" he could to shame Bunning and, by extension, the GOP.
"Look, sometimes even using their names doesn't create the shame that you would think it would normally engender when there are people that lost their unemployment benefits because one person decided they were going to gum up the works," Gibbs said, when asked why he was refraining from using Bunning's name. "It's just never -- it's just not how it's ever worked. I don't know why."
The shaming process extends beyond the briefing room lectern. A Democratic source passed on talking points that are making their way through the party detailing how people should approach discussing "The Consequences of Obstruction."
The instructions include a heavy focus on the economic cost of Bunning's antics -- with particular emphasis on detailing the obstructionism in numbers. But they aren't without a sharp political edge.
"[W]hat we're seeing right now is politics at its worst," the talking points read. "It's a perfect example of why so many Americans are fed up with Washington."
"We need to think about how our actions will impact the American people, because they sent us here to work for them," the talking points continue. "We need to put an end to the gamesmanship, and do whatever is in our power to put Americans back to work. They expect and deserve nothing less of us."
Read the full talking points below:
· Last week, Democrats and Republicans came together in the House to pass an emergency bill that will temporarily extend benefits for American workers and small businesses. It showed that in times of great need, our elected officials can still set aside their differences to do right by the American people.
· But just when we thought we were seeing progress, we have been confronted with a disappointing return to tactics that could be harmful to the American people, with Senator Jim Bunning blocking the extension of several critical priorities for middle-class families.
· The consequences of this blatant, partisan obstructionism at a time of economic need could not be clearer, and will be felt starting today:
o For the first time in 20 years, thousands of construction workers across the country aren't at work today and major road projects are halted.
o 2,000 employees at the U.S. Department of Transportation are furloughed at a time when vehicle safety problems are threatening lives on our nation's roads.
o Federal reimbursements to states for highway and transit projects--on the order of hundreds of millions of dollars each day--will stop, which could force a halt in construction work and layoffs of construction workers in the middle of worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.
o An estimated 500,000 workers who lose their jobs will be ineligible for subsidies to cover the cost of health care over this month. Over the rest of 2010, an estimated 5 million workers will be ineligible for the Recovery Act COBRA subsidies that cover 65% of the cost of coverage. Without this assistance, many of these families will be forced to join the ranks of the uninsured.
o Nearly 3,000 businesses this month will be denied access to the loans they need to run their businesses, to pay their employees and vendors, and to create new jobs.
o 400,000 individuals who cannot find work will lose their unemployment insurance. And within a month, that number of Americans who lose benefits will increase to 1.5 million and within two months nearly 3 million Americans will have lost their benefits.
o If Congress fails to act quickly, payment rates for doctors in Medicare will be cut by 21.2 percent. These cuts will substantially impair doctors' ability to maintain care for Medicare patients. This will affect 600,000 doctors nationwide, including 8,105 in Senator Bunning's state of Kentucky.
· There's nothing wrong with someone taking a principled stand for something they believe in, but Senator Bunning voted to extend these same benefits in 2008. And over the past decade, unemployment insurance extensions have been passed as emergency measures under Republican and Democratic Congresses alike. So what we're seeing right now is politics at its worst. It's a perfect example of why so many Americans are fed up with Washington.
· We need to think about how our actions will impact the American people, because they sent us here to work for them. We need to put an end to the gamesmanship, and do whatever is in our power to put Americans back to work. They expect and deserve nothing less of us.
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