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Bunning’s Filibuster of Jobless Benefits Bill Holds Up

Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) launched a one-man filibuster late Thursday night against a bill with several popular provisions aimed at people hit hardest by the recession. So far, he is succeeding.

The bill would extend expanded unemployment benefits and health insurance subsidies for the jobless, among other provisions, many of which expire Sunday.

Although Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill) is expected to resume attempts to pass the extensions Friday morning, Bunning has said he will continue to object, and with lawmakers gone for the weekend, there is little chance the bill will pass before Sunday.

Bunning refused to allow the bill to pass unless Democrats agreed to pay for it with unused stimulus funds. Although Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) had worked out a deal to vote on Bunning’s funding plan, Bunning refused to go along with it.

Bunning’s filibuster angered Democrats, most notably Durbin, who organized a group of the chamber’s younger Democrats Thursday night to man the floor for a potential all-night session.

But after three hours of often heated debate — during which Bunning could be heard yelling obscenities at other lawmakers — Durbin dropped his efforts for the evening shortly before midnight.

While several Democrats took to the floor to try to defeat the filibuster, Bunning manned the GOP side of the chamber largely himself. Toward the end of the evening, a clearly frustrated Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) came to the Senate floor to offer a quasi-defense of Bunning.

While explicitly avoiding siding with Bunning’s position, Corker complained that Democrats had sandbagged Bunning with their efforts to break the filibuster. Corker also suggested that given Bunning’s age, Democrats were treating him unfairly.

“If the attempt tonight is going to be to keep a man 20 years my senior here without the knowledge that this was going to happen ... this in my opinion is beneath the Senate. And while I might be weary, I will stay here the entire night to defend the Senate and defend the fact that the Senator from Kentucky did not know this was going to happen,” Corker said.

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