After repeatedly blocking an extension of unemployment benefits last night — telling Democrats “tough sh*t” and whining about being forced to miss a college basketball game — Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY) returned to the Senate floor this morning to once again object to a motion to move the extension forward.
Last night, Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) supported Bunning, saying that “everybody in the country now knows that the senator from Kentucky has a hold on this bill…That’s something that we honor in this body.” And today it was Sen. John Cornyn’s (R-TX) turn to justify Bunning’s obstruction. Cornyn said that he admires Bunning’s stand because “if there is one message that I hear from my constituents in Texas and from people around the country it is ‘stop the spending‘ and be responsible when it comes to these unmet liabilities”:
I admire the courage of the junior senator from Kentucky, Senator Bunning. It’s not fun to be accused of having no compassion for the people who are out of work, the people for who these benefits should be forthcoming, and I believe will be forthcoming. But somebody has to stand up, finally, and say enough is enough, no more inter-generational theft from our children and grandchildren by not meeting our responsibilities today. And that’s what I interpret him to have done.
Cornyn said that he wants to redirect money from the economic stimulus package into the jobless benefit extension, which would cause money already dedicated to tax cuts and other stimulus programs to be revoked. Democrats want to consider the benefits extension emergency spending instead. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) even agreed to hold a vote on Bunning’s suggested options for paying for the extension, but Bunning refused because he “did not expect his colleagues to adopt it.”
The House passed an extension on a voice vote last night (meaning no one objected to the measure), and today Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) criticized Bunning’s obstructionism. “It is really hard to understand why one senator in the United States Senate is holding up the extension of unemployment insurance at this time,” she said. Vice President Joe Biden also weighed in, saying “I wish that senator would think about how that man or woman [whose benefits expire] would explain to their kids how they’re going to get by.”
The Senate adjourned today without the extension passing, and is not scheduled to return until Monday. 1.1 million workers are scheduled to have their unemployment benefits expire in March, and 5 million will lose their benefits by June if no extension is put into place.