Yesterday, the House of Representatives passed an extension of unemployment benefits on a voice vote. The Senate, however, has yet to act on the same measure, as various senators are throwing up procedural roadblocks. On Wednesday night, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) asked for unanimous consent to approve an extension, only to see the motion blocked by Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY) over “a dispute over how [the bill] should be funded.”
Late last night, Democrats made repeated attempts to pass the extension by unanimous consent, and Bunning blocked them all. He then complained that the Democrats’ insistence on trying to ensure that unemployment benefits not expire had caused him to miss a college basketball game:
I want to assure the people that have, heh, watched this thing until quarter of twelve — and I have missed the Kentucky-South Carolina game that started at 9 o’clock, and it’s the only redeeming chance we had to beat South Carolina, since they’re the only team that has beat Kentucky this year — all of these things that we have talked about and all the provisions that have been discussed, the unemployment benefits, all these things. If we’d have taken the longer version of the job bill…we wouldn’t have spent three hours plus telling everybody in the United States of America that Senator Bunning doesn’t give a damn about the people that are on unemployment.
(Bunning’s beloved Kentucky Wildcats went on to defeat South Carolina.) Watch it:
Not only did Bunning’s antics go on all night and ultimately prevent an extension from passing, but other Republicans went to bat for Bunning, arguing that the Democrats should simply respect Bunning’s hold. Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) said, “I believe we’re stooping to a low level. This is not the way the Senate functions. 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.”
“I just don’t think one senator ought to be able to heap this kind of suffering and misfortune on people who are already struggling in this economy,” Durbin said. “This is a wild pitch you are throwing tonight because it is pitch that is hitting somebody in the stands.” 1.1 million workers are scheduled to have their unemployment benefits expire next month, and 5 million will lose their benefits by June.
Sen. Durbin tried once more to pass the extension by unanimous consent this morning, and Bunning objected again.