Senate Democrats accused GOP leaders Saturday of giving tacit approval to Sen. Jim Bunning's (R-Ky.) filibuster of a short-term extension to unemployment benefits and called on Republicans to lift their objections.
"This is just outrageous and irresponsible that we have to be talking about this. ... [Unemployed workers] did not cause this situation and this recession that they're facing," Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) said Saturday, arguing that Bunning has the "tacit support from the [GOP] leadership who have not stepped up" to end the filibuster.
Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) agreed, warning that average Americans don't "understand how it is that Republicans are conducting a filibuster" of legislation that would extend unemployment insurance, COBRA insurance, highway spending, Medicare payments to doctors and other social programs.
Bunning on Wednesday launched a largely one-man filibuster of the one-month extension, demanding that Democrats pay for the spending before agreeing to let the bill through the Senate. Bunning's filibuster has not been endorsed by Republican leaders.
Although Democrats initially kept their criticism largely targeted on Bunning, as the cantankerous lawmaker began receiving support from other Republicans — including National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (Texas) and Sen. Bob Corker (Tenn.) — they have quickly expanded their attacks to the GOP generally.
Democrats in the House and Senate also continued to intensify their pressure on Bunning himself.
Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) faulted Republican leaders for being unable to control Bunning. "The leadership of the Republican caucus can't convince Sen. Bunning to cooperate with them," he said.
Rep. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), for instance, issued a statement Friday denouncing the filibuster that also included Bunning's office number, and called on Michigan residents to call his office to register their opposition. Bunning spokesman Mike Reynard told Fox News on Friday that the office's phones "are ringing off the hook" and that most, though not all, of the calls have been negative.