Senate Passes Benefits Bill After Bunning Drops Crusade

Posted March 2, 2010 at 8:45pm

The Senate voted 78-19 Tuesday night to pass legislation extending unemployment benefits, highway funding and other programs for one month, bringing to a close Sen. Jim Bunning’s (R-Ky.) one-man crusade to filibuster the bill.

Final passage of the bill came after Democrats brushed off a Bunning amendment to fund the bill’s $10 billion price tag. As part of the deal to free the legislation, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) agreed to allow a vote on Bunning’s amendment and to allow Bunning to offer two amendments to a long-term extension the Senate is also considering.

Bunning’s filibuster of the bill resulted in thousands of federal workers being furloughed and an interruption in unemployment insurance payments.

And while Bunning ultimately capitulated to the growing pressure from Democrats and many of his GOP colleagues to drop the filibuster, he remained defiant until the end, seeking to defend his move.

“We cannot keep adding to the debt and passing the buck to generations of future workers and taxpayers. As we all know, the national debt has grown at a record pace in recent years. A large part of that has been as a result of downturns in the economy a decade ago and then during the last few years. But increased government spending has been a major factor, too,” Bunning said in a floor speech before the vote, even going so far as to quote a letter of support sent to his office in which he was referred to as “the mighty Senator from Kentucky.”

Other Republicans were not so generous in their assessment of Bunning’s filibuster, arguing that his tactics had handed Democrats significant political momentum and had sidetracked Republican efforts to hammer the Obama administration on health care.

“Sen. Bunning provided a case study on what can happen to someone who thinks he can take on the White House, Democrats in Congress and the national media without a game plan and without consulting his colleagues,” a senior GOP operative said. “His message could’ve worked if he would’ve understood that Republicans are most effective at putting Democrats on defense when they’re playing team ball.”