More than five days after he began but two days too late to prevent a cut off in services that will now have to be fixed retroactively, Senator Jim Bunning gave up his one-man filibuster of a $10 billion bill to extend unemployment benefits for 30 days. The measure passed with large bipartisan support 78-19. The Kentucky Republican said he opposed the bill because it was not paid for and had demanded votes on three amendments that offered alternate financing. In the end, he got a vote on one amendment, which failed, that would’ve used stimulus money to pay for the bill. From Bunning’s statement:
“For too long Congresses controlled by both Republican and Democrat majorities have not done a good enough job of controlling the spending of the taxpayers’ money. My stand over the last couple of days was not against those Kentuckians who are on the unemployment line. I support the underlying legislation and support those who are out of work and need a helping hand. What I do not support is the hypocrisy displayed by Senate Democrats. Just over a month ago Democrats passed pay-go legislation and then turned around and waived it for the next two major pieces of legislation that were considered by the Senate. What was the point of passing pay-go legislation? If Democrats continue to ignore their own rules I will oppose future legislation that is not paid for.”
That last shot across the bow probably scares Republicans more than Democrats. Bunning’s moves have played perfectly into the Democratic narrative that Republicans have become nothing more than a party of obstructionists. While Reid could’ve filed for cloture and held a vote after 30 hours of debate, Dems said they were sick of allowing Republicans hold crucial legislation that helps the most vulnerable Americans hostage to their whims. It’s the closest Senate Dems have come to forcing the GOP to filibuster a bill. And we may find out very quickly how serious Bunning is with his threat: Dems hope to vote by Friday on a year-long $150 billion extension on unemployment insurance benefits (which includes a retroactive fix) and business tax breaks, much of it unpaid for.