Campaigns spar over jobless benefits

Published 5:47 am Thursday, July 22, 2010

Staff Writer

A spokesman for Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Elaine Marshall blasted incumbent Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., Tuesday, saying the senator is “two-faced” and has “zero credibility” on the federal deficit.
Spokesman Sam Swartz made his comments in a subsequent interview on a news release from the Marshall campaign.
In the release, Marshall, North Carolina’s secretary of state, called on Burr to end a GOP filibuster of a bill designed to extend unemployment benefits for millions of Americans.
The bill cleared a procedural wall with a 60-40 vote of the Senate on Tuesday afternoon.
Asked about the argument that the legislation would add to the federal deficit, Swartz noted the last time the bill came up for consideration by the Senate, lawmakers failed to break the impasse by one vote.
“It was one vote, and that’s Sen. Burr’s vote,” Swartz said.
As a result, 2.5 million Americans lost “this crucial benefit,” the spokesman said.
“We also think it’s two-faced of Sen. Burr to be talking now about the deficit at the same time that he wants to extend tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans,” Swartz said.
Burr has voted for two wars — Iraq, Afghanistan — and for tax cuts to the rich, Swartz added.
“Burr has absolutely zero credibility on the deficit,” he said.
Burr has voted to increase the deficit, Swartz offered.
“This guy has been a drunken spender, and now he wants to keep the keys to the wheel,” the spokesman concluded.
In response, Samantha Smith, spokeswoman for Burr’s campaign, said, “I think, unfortunately, the reason we’re still having this debate about jobs is that everything this administration has done, and its allies, has been an absolute failure.”
In an e-mail, she wrote, “Neither the Marshall campaign’s playground antics nor her legislative agenda will do anything to create jobs, turn our economy around, or get government spending under control.”
The economic agenda Marshall supports has pushed the national debt over $13 trillion, Smith said.
“The rate of our spending has increased dramatically, and it’s unsustainable, so unless we start making the drastic cuts we need to make — there’s hard decisions we have to make, and one of the things is to start paying for government programs,” she said.
Smith added, “Secretary Marshall seems to only want to treat the symptoms rather than the disease.”
She noted the National Federation of Independent Business endorsed Burr, and she said there are reasons for that nod.
In a published statement on Tuesday’s vote, Burr was quoted as saying, “I agree with the statement President Obama made last November that we should extend these benefits in a financially responsible way that does not add to our national debt. I have voted for legislation that would pay for this spending by making cuts elsewhere in the government. Unfortunately, that proposal was defeated along party lines, and Senate Democrats have objected to its passage four additional times. I think everyone agrees that we should extend unemployment benefits, but one party is using this as a political tool while the other party wants to extend the benefits and pay for them.”
In the Tuesday news release, Marshall was quoted as saying, “For months my opponent has been working against our working families — blocking the extension of unemployment benefits. Because of this partisan obstruction more than 2.5 million Americans have been cut off unemployment benefits they desperately need to survive.”
If Marshall’s camp is swinging hard, the reason might be that the candidate can’t afford to do otherwise.
At last report, Marshall’s campaign committee had under $200,000 cash on hand, and it was limping along financially after a protracted primary fight with challenger Cal Cunningham.
By contrast, Burr’s committee reported $6.3 million cash on hand.
Also, Burr appears to be leading Marshall in the latest polling, and CQ says a victory is likely for the Republican this November.