Thursday, May 22, 2008

Lunsford Evades Budget Question

Bruce Lunsford might have won the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate, but his non-response to a question about how he would vote on the budget seems more like a corporate president at a shareholders' meeting evading the question as to how much of the company's money he intends to take in salary and stock options.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell posed three questions to Lunsford, two of which relate to the federal budget. Ryan Alessi reports Lunsford's "response."

Lunsford refused to take a postion to question number one:

"How would he vote on the budget that we will be voting on either today or tomorrow here in the Senate?" asked McConnell, who is likely to vote against the budget bill. (Emphasis added.)

Lunsford said the budget draft contains "some stimulus packages in there that could be helpful to the country right now." But he said "it isn't our budget, we didn't put it together," so he declined to speculate on whether he would vote for or against it.

The people of Kentucky are entitled to know how Lunsford would vote on the budget. The power of the purse is one of the most important responsibilities of Congress; it reflects our national priorities and how much we pay in taxes. Voters cannot make an informed choice without Lunsford addressing whether he would vote to raise taxes. Given the overwhelming defeat of the library tax, this is not an issue that Lunsford can dodge.

Lunsford's response boils down to more whining about why the Vencor debacle was not his fault, and how he's a victim.

Question number two:

"How would he have voted on the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, which he blames for the colossal failure and bankruptcy of his nursing home business? My assumption is that he would have voted with (former Democratic U.S. Senator) Wendell Ford in opposing that," McConnell said. (Emphasis added.)

Lunsford criticized the legislation for affecting nursing home companies, such as Vencor, which he founded. He claims the nursing home industry bore the brunt of what he called "draconian cuts" contained in the Balanced Budget Act that didn't become known until after details were hammered out in closed-door congressional conference committee meetings. "This was ill-fated public policy that destroyed the industry," he said. "It’s the classic example of smoke-filled (room) political decisions being made that impacts people to protect special interest groups."

Lunsford's response boils down to more whining about why the Vencor debacle was not his fault, and how he's a victim.

The third question related to energy:

"The third question I think he ought to respond to is how would he have voted on my amendment in the last two weeks to increase domestic energy production, which, by the way, failed in the Senate and received just one Democratic vote in support?" McConnell asked. "We’ve got to get serious about not ruling so much of our own production out of bounds," he said, citing the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, which contains oil reserves. "We’ve got to have a balanced approach of both conservation and production." (Emphasis added.)

Lunsford said he opposes drilling in ANWR. "ANWR has the potential of being environmentally unsound and doesn’t do enough to help solve the problem," he said. "Again, that’s short term political thinking on the part of the Republicans and they’ve short-termed us to death, so now we’ve got nothing but long-term problems." He favors placing a wind-fall profit tax on oil companies and approving a federal gas tax holiday this summer.

Lunsford's characterization of drilling in Alaska as "short-term political thinking" gets it exactly backwards; he ignores the lead time it would take to translate that untapped oil into gas at the pump. The federal gas tax "holiday" that Lunsford supports, now that's "short-term political thinking."

Lunsford did not address why he opposes the McConnell amendment's incentives for new energy technologies and the use of clean coal to liquid technologies. Nor did he address the effect of oil companies passing along to consumers the "wind-fall profit tax" that Lunsford would impose -- and actually raising the cost of gas.

Lunsford secured the Democratic nomination without having to articulate positions on these and other critical policy issues. Perhaps he thinks that repeated meaningless incantations of "hope" and "change" are enough to win in Kentucky, but as Tuesday's results demonstrate, Kentuckians -- including Democrats -- will not be fooled. Just ask the 35-percentage-point-loser, Senator Barack Obama.

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