Tuesday, February 9, 2010
Robert Hurt Votes Against Jobs Bill; Also Opposes Mom, Apple Pie
In what can only be described as a thoroughly baffling move, Sen. Robert Hurt has voted against a bipartisan bill that would have extended unemployment benefits for laid-off workers. The bill, S.B. 239, was specifically directed at workers enrolled in retraining programs, and qualified those workers for up to 26 weeks of additional benefits. In today's vote, all 22 Senate Dems voted in favor of the bill, and yes, to their great credit, half the Senate GOP voted yes. It was actually introduced by Republican Sen. John Watkins of Midlothian. Special thanks to Martinsville's own Roscoe Reynolds, who was a co-sponsor.
Sen. Hurt, however, was one of nine Republicans in the State Senate to vote against the bill. More importantly, he was the only senator from the Southside to take that stand. For some reason, Hurt turned down a bill that should have been a political no-brainer. There are just some things you NEVER vote against under any circumstances, and unemployed workers certainly fall into that category. Moreover, the bill is funded by stimulus money, so Hurt can't even pull out the "we-don't-have-the-money" defense. I'd be very interested to see his statement when this inevitably becomes a media storm. For Robert Hurt to represent Southside and vote against helping unemployed workers is not just a terrible strategy, it's also woefully out of touch.
I'm not even angry about this. Just very, very puzzled. The only explanation I can think of is that Sen. Hurt is doing damage control with the Tea Party/extreme anti-spending wing of his party--maybe he thinks voting against anything connected to the stimulus will undo some of the damage he's taking for his vote on Mark Warner's budget. The problem? It won't work. He has just demolished his "sane moderate" image and, if this becomes a big story, he has alienated countless voters in what should be his strongest region. I wonder how much of this has to do with campaign consultant Chris LaCivita?
Now the bill will go to the House of Delegates. Will Morgan Griffith and his merry band reprise their notorious anti-stimulus/anti-middle class vote from last year? Only time will tell.