Senator blocks unemployment bill; says, 'Tough [bleep]!'

Jim BunningMaking the rounds of the blogosphere today is a lot of talk about Senator Jim Bunning, a Republican from Kentucky, who released an epithet in Congress that, to put it politely, is a synonym for tough cow manure.

But what's more serious than the curse word: unemployment benefits now hang in the balance for 1.2 million Americans, such as a New York man who lost his benefits.

Because Bunning, 77, blocked the bill, unemployment benefits will temporarily expire after Feb. 28.
Bunning's beef wasn't that the unemployed would get additional benefits. He didn't like that the money was going to add to the federal budget deficit. He wanted the Senate to pay for the cost of the benefits, to be around $10 billion, by using some of the $400 billion in unspent stimulus funds.

That said, whether his objections were reasonable or not, he blocked the bill, and now unemployment benefits are ending, and I have a feeling anyone without a job and in need of their benefits won't care why this happened, just that it did.

As for how all of this went down, Democratic senators asked for an unanimous consent for a vote on this 30-day extension, and Bunning objected. Repeatedly. Go watch the video of him objecting.

In fact, one of his comments was: "I don't think it's fair to do what you are proposing to do... I'll be here as long as you are here, and as long as those other Senators are here, and I'm going to object every time."

Later, when Oregon Democrat Jeff Merkley practically begged Bunning to reconsider his objection, that's when Bunning snapped: "Tough s---."

Few Republican senators, if any, seem to be supporting Bunning, who isn't seeking re-election in November. But if you want to express your support or fury, feel free to contact his office by clicking here.

It's easy to see why Republicans didn't rush to Bunning's defense. Not only is this an unpopular stand, but for some time Bunning has a reputation for being a little eccentric, and his Republican colleagues have been distancing themselves from him for awhile now. In fact, Time magazine in 2006 wrote a story about him titled, "The Underperformer" and discussed some of his odd behavior during the 2004 election, including these two gems:
  • Telling his Democratic, Italian-American opponent that he looked like one of Saddam Hussein's sons.
  • Refusing to go to Kentucky for the campaign's one debate, and instead doing it from Washington and reading some of his answers from a teleprompter.
Now, arguably, Bunning is underperforming in a big way. The bill he is holding up also extends Medicare payment rates for doctors through March 31, preventing them from a 21% cut, which will start on Monday. The bill also extended flood insurance programs, small business loans and a copyright license used by satellite television providers.

As Thursday night's session in Congress came to a close, Bunning, who, of course, promised he would stick around to keep objecting, and would show up the next morning as well, somewhat pinned the blame for the lengthy session on his opponents, complaining: "I have missed the Kentucky-South Carolina game that started at 9:00, 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."

Yes, he missed his basketball game. I'm guessing few of his fellow Congressmen, Democratic or Republican, will offer him sympathy there, and if asked how they feel about Bunning and his basketball game, I'm guessing that 1.2 million unemployed Americans would have a two-word reply for him, involving some cow manure.

Geoff Williams is a regular contributor to WalletPop, and usually stays out of politics, but this was too interesting to avoid. He is also the co-author of the new book "Living Well with Bad Credit."

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