But in 2003, Bunning not only voted for an unemployment extension but also put out a glowing press release lauding the extension of unemployment benefits as “hopeful news for our most needy families in Kentucky”:
U.S. Senator Jim Bunning today announced that legislation to extend temporary unemployment benefits for an additional five months has passed the United States Congress. The legislation, which was unanimously approved yesterday by the Senate and by a vote of 416–4 today in the House, would also provide a temporary 13-week extension of unemployment benefits for all individuals who exhaust their traditional benefits before June 1, 2003. “The 108th Congress is off to a solid start,” said Bunning. “This is hopeful news for our most needy families in Kentucky. By approving this legislation we will help those folks who are currently without work continue to make ends meet until they can find new employment.” Passage of this legislation means that there will be no lapse in assistance for the nearly 10,000 Kentuckians who have filed claims so far for extended benefits. The last extension expired on December 28, 2002. President Bush is expected to sign the bill tomorrow, which means the next payment to states can still be made on Friday, January 10, as originally scheduled.
The CBO estimates that at the time, the budgetary cost of the unemployment benefit increase was $6.6 billion between 2003 and 2007. The Labor Department estimates that 4,300 Kentuckians will lose their unemployment benefits during the week of March 13 without an extension. If Bunning’s stance today is truly principled, then why didn’t he stand up to fight the unpaid-for benefits in 2003, under the Republican President Bush?
Bunning missed nearly half of all floor votes in the Senate during the crucial month of December, including the vote on the health care bill and the defense appropriations bill.