You are here

Kentucky's Sen. Bunning Singlehandedly Idles Road Construction Projects Nationally, Including Many in National Parks


Jim Bunning, Kentucky's contrary U.S. senator, singlehandedly has shut down road construction projects across the nation, including many in national parks, because he doesn't want to help middle-class families weather the economic storm, U.S. Department of Transportation officials said Monday.

The Republican's move to block key legislation forced the department to furlough nearly 2,000 employees and shut down highway reimbursements to states worth hundreds of millions of dollars, national anti-drunk driving efforts, and multi-million dollar construction projects across the country, DOT officials said in a release. Specifically, Sen. Bunning blocked legislation that covered tax credits for COBRA health coverage, unemployment insurance for 400,000 people, as well as the short-term extension of the Highway Trust Fund. The Fund supports all surface transportation programs for the nation – highways, bridges, transit and safety inspections, as well as efforts to encourage seat belt use and to fight distracted and impaired driving, the department said.

“As American families are struggling in tough economic times, I am keenly disappointed that political games are putting a stop to important construction projects around the country,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “This means that construction workers will be sent home from job sites because federal inspectors must be furloughed.”

Because of the shutdown, federal inspectors will be removed from critical construction projects, forcing work to come to a halt on federal lands, the agency said. National parks impacted by the shutdown range from Great Smoky Mountains National Park, where reconstruction of the Cades Cove Loop was to start in earnest Monday and Sequoia National Park, which has a huge construction project at its main entrance scheduled to Vicksburg National Military Park and even Carlsbad Caverns National Park.

Here's a breakdown of affected national park projects:

* Coronado National Monument, main park entrance, $1,500,000

* Sequoia National Park, main entrance, $15,000,000

* Golden Gate National Recreation Area, road construction, $8,700,000

* Chicakamauga & Chattanogga National Military Park, construction, $634,000

* Great Falls Park, entrance road construction, $3,100,000

* Piscataway National Park, erosion and slope damage repair, $89,000

* Natchez Trace Parkway, resurfacing, $8,100,000

* Natchez Trace Parkway, trail construction (Ridgeland County, Mississippi), $5,600,000

* Vicksburg National Military Park, road rehabilitation and resurfacing, $5,000,000

* Natchez Trace Parkway, trail construction (Madison County, Mississippi), $4,700,000

* Carlsbad Caverns National Park, roadway rehabilitation, $9,000,000

* Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Newfound Gap road rehabilitation, $9,900,000

* Blue Ridge Parkway, reconstruction and resurfacing, $6,000,000

* Fort Sumter Historic Site, entrance road and parking area rehabilitation, $262,000

* Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Cades Cove Loop Road rehabilitation, $6,700,000

* Shilo National Park, tour roads and parking area rehabilitation, $3,000,000

* George Washington Parkway, Humpback Bridge replacement, $36,000,000

* Blue Ridge Parkway, reconstruction and resurfacing, $12,000,000

* Virgin Islands National Park, Centerline Road reconstruction, $9,000,000

* Virgin Islands National Park, St. John roundabout construction, $7,200,000

Furloughs will affect employees funded by the Highway Trust Fund at the following agencies: the Federal Highway Administration, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Research and Innovative Technology Administration.


For more proof of how divided folks are on this issue, here's some reaction to, and coverage of, the senator's action from around the country:


"I’m angry because he is blocking this extension for over a million people," she stated. "It wasn’t our choice to lose our jobs. If he was in this position, what would he do?"


"Dear Senator Bunning," he intoned. "I haven’t worked a full 40-hour week in probably two years, but I fully support your decision to stand up to those in Congress who want to do nothing more than to spent the taxpayer money – even the money they do not have – on unemployment extension benefits."


One Stop Northern Kentucky Manager Connie Schnell said with the Commonwealth’s unemployment rate at 10.7 percent, 119,230 people are eligible for the federal benefits extension. Without the Senate’s approval, 14,206 of them will exhaust their benefits within two weeks – and 22,797 more people will be in the same position by the end of March.


Robert Steurer, spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY):

Senator McConnell supports extending unemployment benefits and is disappointed they will apparently expire. He believes this should have been addressed weeks ago when there was a bipartisan agreement to do so. However, he hopes this issue is resolved quickly so that Kentuckians who are out of work will have their benefits restored soon.


Kentucky Gov.Steve Beshear:

“These unemployed Kentuckians come from hard-working families that have struggled for months to find new employment in the greatest economic recession in our lifetime,” wrote Gov. Beshear. “They are mothers and fathers who are trying to put food on the table for their children and seniors who are trying to pay the rent.”


Dr. Daniel Mongiardo, Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate from Kentucky:

“Come Monday, unemployment for 1.2 million Americans and tens of thousands of Kentuckians across this Commonwealth who have lost their jobs during this recession and are struggling to keep their homes from foreclosure and put food on the table will now lose or have their unemployment and COBRA health benefits disrupted because of Jim Bunning’s cold-hearted disregard for his fellow Kentuckians.”


From The Hill newspaper:

Bunning, who is not running for re-election, had been blasted by Democrats and even criticized by some Republicans for his stand. The Kentucky Republican said he blocked the benefits because he wanted the bill funded by unspent stimulus money. GOP Sen. Susan Collins (Maine), a moderate, joined Democrats in pressing Bunning to relent, and many Republicans — including McConnell, Bunning’s Kentucky colleague and the Republican leader, declined to defend him strongly although McConnell eventually voted to support him.


From The Christian Science Monitor:

Susan in Sarasota, Fla., says she may lose her house when, after Sen. Jim Bunning blocked a vote on extending unemployment benefits, her unemployment benefits run out.

“Imagine what I have to say daily to my six-year-old to explain why mommy and daddy are so sad all the time,” writes a woman in California, with a husband facing the prospect of no longer getting his unemployment check.

And a man in Chicago says that, without an extension of unemployment benefits, “I could go homeless soon.


From the Huffington Post's Arthur Delaney:

Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) is single-handedly blocking Senate action needed to prevent an estimated 1.2 million American workers from prematurely losing their unemployment benefits next month. When, on the Senate floor, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) begged him to drop his objection Bunning replied: "Tough shit."


From a New York Times story:

“This is one senator,” said Senator John Cornyn of Texas, a chief political strategist for Senate Republicans. “This does not represent the position of the caucus.”


From an Associated Press story:

"He's cruel," said Louisville resident George Boyd, who lost his job a year ago and could be affected by the impasse. "He's heartless. He doesn't think about the needs of other people."


"He's hurting the American people," Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said when asked Tuesday if Bunning was hurting the Republican Party.

The actual text from the DOT is less abrasive:

"The action comes as a result of Kentucky Sen. Jim Bunning’s decision to block key legislation that would have extended several critical priorities for middle class families."

If you are going to quote, then do so and don't interject your bias!!!!!!

Many have already expressed their dismay at Kurt's opinionated reporting. I guess Kurt found it important to quote an opinion by someone at the Transportation Dept. " .... because he doesn't want to help middle-class families weather the economic storm, U.S. Department of Transportation officials said Monday...." but not to then present the other side to the story (just a single sentence would suffice) is extremely poor, biased journalism.

Kurt, the excuses which you gave were lame. You should just bite the bullet and admit that you made a mistake!

It did't take long for someone to blame Bush did it.

Thank you for a sensible comment. I too, like to read this site without the political slant. But, as we all know, that just isn't the case. When our national parks become fodder for political interests....wait a minute...I guess it's always been like that. How many of "our" parks were "bought" from our indigenous peoples, is still very much an issue with many people.

We all know that nothing will get done until it's too late and we stare at a full blown financial crisis straight ahead. The solution to our public debt, our debt, will please no one as it will involve less spending on everybody's pet project (education, the military, infrastructure, etc.) and tax increases. Numbers just don't add up otherwise. BTW, the country was doing just fine 10 years ago when taxes were higher, and we had a surplus.

It's stupid beyond belief to grandstand over spending for a STOPGAP measure. If Bunning wants to debate how to pay for things, debate it when you're debating the actual bill to fund the program - not the temporary measure that's only there to continue funding to give time for exactly this sort of debate.

You guys just don't get doesn't matter how we got this mess...but it does matter how we get out. Continued unfunded spending must end...period. I can place go on for years playing tit for tat on placing blame but it is a waste of energy. It will take Congressional Leaders that have a set of brass ones to tackle this issue and I commend Bunning for taking a stand...but he lost because no one in Congress or the media had the guts to support him.

I guess government workers view the economy different than those who work in privaste industry.

Add comment


This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

National Parks Traveler's Essential Park Guide

Recent Forum Comments