Today, Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY) continued his stand against extending unemployment benefits, once again taking to the Senate floor to object to a unanimous consent motion to move forward on a bill providing for a temporary extension. So far, Bunning has blocked the extension on eleven separate occasions, and when asked by reporters today to explain his obstruction, he responded by flipping them off.
Several Republicans, including Sens. Bob Corker (R-TN) and John Cornyn (R-TX), have supported Bunning’s intransigence. And today Bunning won one more supporter in Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), who said that he respects Bunning for standing “like a solid rock” against extending benefits:
He stood like a solid rock and he didn’t give in. He said I’m not agreeing to it because you could pay for it and it’s increasing the debt on my forty-two grandchildren. And he didn’t agree to it. You know, every now and then somebody stands up in the Senate and says I’ve had enough and I’m not going to say yes this time. And I respect him for the courage he’s showed.
But it’s not only the unemployed who are feeling the ill effects of Bunning’s gamesmanship. By not passing the extension, 2,000 federal transportation workers were furloughed today. As the Department of Transportation explained:
Because of the shutdown, federal inspectors will be removed from critical construction projects, forcing work to come to a halt on federal lands. Projects span the country, including the $36 million replacement of the Humpback Bridge on the George Washington Parkway in Virginia, $15 million in bridge construction and stream rehabilitation in Coeur D’Alene, Idaho, and the $8 million resurfacing of the Natchez Trace Parkway in Mississippi. [...]
At the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the furloughs will disrupt safety programs that operate in partnership with the states and advocacy groups, such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP).
Bunning also received praise today from both of the Republicans vying to fill his seat when he retires at the end of the year. Republican Trey Grayson, Kentucky’s secretary of state, said he would “proudly stand up to ensure that programs are paid for,” while Republican Rand Paul said “more senators need to stand up for the taxpayers and against the big-spending career politicians in both parties.”