Sen. 'Scrooge' Bunning's brushback pitch hurting the unemployed

Sen. Jim Bunning's boneheaded move last week to block a jobs bill in Congress that would extend unemployment benefits for 1.2 million Americans is forcing at least one long-term unemployed person into a potentially dangerous situation.

Richard Hutnik, 42, of Poughkeepsie, N.Y., has been unemployed for three years and his $430 benefit every two weeks is being delayed, forcing him to move out of a $630-a-month dorm he lives in and back home with his abusive father, Hutnik told WalletPop in a telephone interview today.

"I miss a week or two of unemployment benefits, I fall behind on it," he said of the rent on his temporary housing.

Ebenezer Scrooge has some competition from Bunning, a Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher (thanks to the Hall of Fame Veterans Committee in 1996) and a retiring senator from Kentucky who said he was blocking the bill because he didn't want to add to the federal deficit.

The Senate expects to reconsider the bill this week if senators can convince Bunning to give up his fillibuster. Along with delaying benefits at least through March 31, Bunning's block has caused the U.S. Transportation Department to lay off 2,000 employees today, halting construction projects, according to a Bloomberg story.

The furloughed workers won't be paid, although they'll likely get their jobs back if the bill is approved. The bill included a provision to extend the authorization to spend money from the federal Highway Trust Fund, which pays for some of the spending by the Transportation Department.

Hutnik, of New York, has some advice for Congress: "They need to stop playing partisan politics," he said.

In this case, it's more the lone boneheadedness of Bunning than of Republicans teaming up against the bill. Part of Bunning's argument against the bill was that the late vote was causing him to miss a college basketball game.

With unemployment at 9% in New York, Hutnik isn't optimistic.

"You tell me what happened to the American dream?" he asks. "Me with a master's degree -- I'm lucky if I can find a job at Wendy's."

After graduating from college with a master's degree in information systems, he worked for IBM for almost seven years before being laid off the first time in 2004. He then worked again for IBM until his department was consolidated with a data center in Colorado.

Losing unemployment benefits, even for a few weeks, is forcing him to move into his parents' house, where his dad is emotionally abusive and the home environment is "emotionally toxic," he said.

Hutnik volunteers at a non-profit so he can keep up on his job skills and remain a viable job candidate, but so far it hasn't led to full-time work.

Maybe Bunning can help him find a job in Kentucky.
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