UPDATE from David Waldman:
Never mind! The Senate appears to have adjourned for the weekend. Bunning has won for the day, and Durbin’s threat has shockingly failed to materialize at all. The extent of Bunning’s punishment: he missed prime time TeeVee last night.
Enjoy your weekend. Maybe the DSCC will call you for money this evening!
How do I put this? It’s a well-known Beltway fact that Jim Bunning is not only (to put it kindly) an intellectual lightweight, he’s taken one too many baseballs to the head. In other words, the man is nuts:
Via Huffington Post (h/t Somegirl):
Jim Bunning, a Republican from Kentucky, is single-handedly blocking Senate action needed to prevent an estimated 1.2 million American workers from prematurely losing their unemployment benefits next month.
As Democratic senators asked again and again for unanimous consent for a vote on a 30-day extension Thursday night, Bunning refused to go along.
And when Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) begged him to drop his objection, Politico reports, Bunning replied: “Tough shit.”
Bunning says he doesn’t oppose extending benefits — he just doesn’t want the money that’s required added to the deficit. He proposes paying for the 30-day extension with stimulus funds. The Senate’s GOP leadership did not support him in his objections.
And at one point during the debate, which dragged on till nearly midnight, Bunning complained of missing a basketball game.
“I have missed the Kentucky-South Carolina game that started at 9:00,” he said, “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.
The unemployment rate in Kentucky is 10.7 percent.
Here’s this morning’s update:
Updated: Feb. 25, 10:46 p.m.
Retiring Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) late Thursday launched a one-man crusade to block an extension of unemployment and COBRA insurance benefits, vowing to allow the benefit programs to expire Sunday unless Democrats agreed to pay for them with unused stimulus funds.
Bunning’s quixotic pursuit of deficit offsets at the potential expense of payments to unemployed or uninsured citizens enraged Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and other Democrats, who vowed to keep the chamber in session until Bunning relents or collapses.
A senior Democratic leadership aide said Durbin would ask for unanimous consent to pass the extensions without Bunning’s payment scheme every half hour for the foreseeable future. “We’re going to keep doing it until we break him,” the aide said.
Democratic and Republican aides agreed that Bunning’s decision was made unilaterally, noting that Bunning and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have essentially not been on speaking terms for more than a year.
“McConnell doesn’t have any sway over him,” a senior Democratic aide said, and GOP aides stressed Bunning’s opposition is not a coordinated GOP position.
Indeed, Republican and Democratic aides said McConnell and Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) worked out a deal Wednesday under which Reid would allow Bunning to offer an amendment requiring the extensions be paid for prior to approving them.
But Bunning rejected that deal because it was all but certain that a majority of the Senate would handily defeat the amendment.