Today, Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY) continued his stand against a bill that would temporarily extend unemployment benefits that expired over the weekend, once again objecting to a unanimous consent motion to move the bill forward. Bunning has been receiving heat not just from Democrats in Congress, but from the press about his stand, so he took to the Senate floor to try to respond to those wondering why this particular bill is the one that he decided to throw himself in front of:
The question I’ve been asked mostly is ‘why now’? Well why not now? What better time for it than to stand up when the Majority Leader has the ability to do exactly on this bill what he has done on 25 bills in the last five months. File cloture, fill the tree, and vote yea or nay. Get the sixty votes, pass the bill, and extend these temporary benefits.
So instead of relenting, Bunning would prefer that Reid file for cloture, which turns what should be a short process into one that takes days, with at least 30 hours of debate. And of course, there are plenty of reasons for “why not now” when it comes to blocking benefits. For one thing, over the weekend, 400,000 workers lost their unemployment benefits, at a time when there are six unemployed workers for every job opening. Another 1.1 million workers will lose their benefits this month.
But its not only unemployment benefits that Bunning is obstructing. The bill also included an extension of highway funding, which means that 2,000 federal highway workers are currently furloughed and construction projects across the country have halted. The bill also included a provision to prevent a 21 percent cut in Medicare payments to physicians as well as money for the Federal Flood Insurance Program. The Des Moines Register noted that Bunning’s blockage of flood insurance comes just “days after the National Weather Service warned that all of Iowa is at risk for ‘significant flooding.’”
Several Republicans — including Sens. Bob Corker (R-TN), John Cornyn (R-TX) and Jeff Sessions (R-AL) have supported Bunning’s filibuster — but today, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) admonished Bunning “on behalf of numerous members of the Republican caucus who have expressed concerns.” Watch it:
Today, the Lexington Herald-Leader, from Bunning’s home state of Kentucky, said that Bunning’s stand “shows callous contempt for the more than one in 10 working Kentuckians whose jobs disappeared in the economic meltdown.” CNN today “tried to get Bunning to comment more extensively on the controversy but the senator emphatically declined.” But, hey, at least he didn’t flip anyone off this time!