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Bunning says he's just getting started

by Joe Arnold


Posted on February 26, 2010 at 6:28 PM

Facing criticism for holding up jobless benefits across the country, Kentucky Senator Jim Bunning (R) returned to the Senate floor Friday, saying he's only getting started.

"There are going to be other bills brought to this floor that are not going to be paid for and I'm going to object every time they do it," Bunning said to an empty chamber.

With the extension of unemployment benefits and Cobra medical insurance pending Senate approval and set to expire Sunday, Bunning alone objected Thursday night, saying the $10 billion bill should be funded from the unspent pool of $400 billion in stimulus money.

"I don't think it's fair to do what you are proposing to do," Bunning said, addressing Illinois Senator Dick Durbin (D), "And I'll be here as long as you're here and as long as those other seantors are here and I'm going to object everytime."

Angry senators harangued Bunning on the floor, and Vice-President Joe Biden lashed out on Friday.

"I wish that senator would think about how that man or woman is going to explain to their kids how they are going to get by," Biden said.

"We have run up $5 trillion in debt," Bunning argued, "There has got to be a time to stop that."

And that time is now for Bunning.  It's a lonely fight -- no other senator would dare touch the political dynamite of holding up the extensions of unemployment insurance and Cobra medical insurance, among other issues.

"I've offered to do the same thing for the same amount of time," Bunning explained, "the only difference I have from some of my good friends on the other side of the aisle is that I believe we should pay for it."

Bunning blames Majority Leader Harry Reid for killing a bipartisan jobs bill that would have extended the unemployment benefits.  Instead, Reid pushed for his own bill, assuming that no one would vote against the extension. 

Though Kentucky's senior senator, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is not rushing to Bunning's defense, a spokesman says McConnell agrees that Reid is to blame.
"Senator McConnell supports extending unemployment benefits and is disappointed they will apparently expire,"  said Robert Steurer, a spokesman for McConnell.  "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."

Unemployed Kentuckians approached outside the Louisville unemployment office had not heard about Bunning's objection, but were anxious that nothing stop their benefits.

"I've been unemployed since December of '08," said John Duerr.  "Unemployment's about to run out. I got my 13 week extension on emergency.  After that, I don't know what I'm going to do."

"He's holding up the people who are going to make the economy good," Duerr continued, "It's going to bring the economy back."

"I won't have bills paid," added Eric Knight, "I won't have a car payment, it would be a trip."

Bunning stood his ground for hours Thursday night, even as angry Democratic Senators harangued him.  At one point, Bunning reportedly responded... "tough s***."

he did acknowledge what he gave up in the fight...

"I have missed the Kentucky - South Carolina game that started at nine O'Clock and it's the only redeming chnace we had to beat South Carolina since they are the only team that has beat Kentucky this year," Bunning said about 11:45pm.

"Right now a single Republican senator is standing up in the chamber I worked in for a long time and he is filibustering a number of things we had in the recovery act to begin with, which make a fundamental difference in the near term concern of middle class people," Vice-President Biden said in a speech Friday, "He's blocking the extension of unemployment insurance, which means if he succeeds, one million people, one million people next month will be thrown off the unemployment rolls."

Bunning returned to the floor Friday morning to state his objection again and prevent the measure from being approved until the senate reconvenes next week

"We have tried to work this out with the majority, particularly after the "Paygo" vote last week,"  Bunning explained, "when 100 senators are for a bill and we can't find $10 billion to pay for it, there's something the matter, seriously the matter with this body."