Monday, March 01, 2010

GOP Senator Jim Bunning filibusters Senate vote to extend unemployment benefits

I've been watching this story over the weekend, and I'm just fascinated at this latest Senate "train wreak" that has been caused by a lone, Republican senator. From MSNBC News:

WASHINGTON - Two thousand federal transportation workers were furloughed without pay on Monday, and the Obama administration said they have a Kentucky senator to blame for it.

Federal reimbursements to states for highway programs will also be halted, the Transportation Department said in a statement late Sunday. The reimbursements amount to about $190 million a day, according to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

The furloughs and freeze on payments were the result of a decision last week by Republican Sen. Jim Bunning to block passage of legislation that would have extended federal highway and transit programs, the department said. Those programs expired at midnight Sunday.

The extension of transportation programs was part of a larger package of government programs that also expired Sunday, including unemployment benefits for about 400,000 Americans.

Bunning objected to the $10 billion measure, saying it would add to the budget deficit. He didn't respond to a request Monday for comment.

Countdown with Keith Olbermann has a decent back story on Bunning's 'bizarro' behavior:

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Should I really feel sorry that Bunning has missed his college basketball game so that he could deny unemployment benefits to Americans who have lost their jobs?

Of course, when Democratic senators pleaded with Bunning to drop his filibuster, Bunning replied "Tough shit!" From the

Senate Democrats spent Thursday night hammering away at Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) for single-handedly holding up action in the upper chamber – but he blurted out a message to one of them on the Senate floor: “Tough s—t.”

In an unusual display in the normally sleepy chamber, Bunning – without the support of GOP leadership – has blocked efforts to quickly approve a series of extensions to measures that would otherwise expire Sunday, including unemployment insurance and the Cobra program that allows people who lose their health benefits to continue getting coverage.

And that has led to a furious exchange on the floor, with Democrats attacking the senator, who has refused to relent on his objection, in unusually harsh terms.

In a colloquy with Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Sen. Jeff Merkley, a freshman Democrat from Oregon, was pleading for Bunning to drop his objection, when the Kentucky Republican got fed up.

“Tough s—t,” Bunning said as he was seated in the back row, overheard by the floor staff and others in attendance.

A spokesman for Bunning did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Finally, an angry Bunning flipped the bird at reporters, questioning Bunning on his one-man filibuster. From ABC News:

Sen. Jim Bunning has left dozens of infrastructure projects on hold and put thousands of federal transportation workers temporarily out of work, but he is sticking to his guns, despite withering criticism from the White House and his Democratic opponents.

Bunning, the Kentucky Republican, decided last week to block a bill that would extend government funding of highway and transit programs and unemployment benefits for 400,000 Americans, among other programs. He has been critical of the bill's $10 billion price tag and its potential to add to the national debt.

Earlier today, Bunning refused to answer questions from ABC News, even flipping his middle finger at a producer trying to catch up with him from behind.

"Excuse me! This is a Senators-only elevator!" Bunning thundered as he boarded an elevator in the Hart Senate Office Building. "I'm not talking to anybody," he said.

I don't really know what else to say about this story, except that Republican Senator Jim Bunning decided to play the major asshole in this latest political drama. Of course, Bunning is in a perfect position to play this curmudgeon game, since he has decided to retire at the end of this year, and will not be facing re-election. But on another note, I can't help but wonder how embarrassing Bunning is to the Republican Party--Bunning is playing the same obstructionist game that the GOP has been playing with the Democrats, and the Obama administration, on every piece of legislative agenda for the past year. Could the difference here between GOP obstructionism against everything, and Bunning's obstructionism against the unemployment benefits simply be that Bunning is a stark, raving lunatic?

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