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Bunning Continues Crusade Against Benefits Extension

Updated: 3:14 p.m.

Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) kicked off the week by continuing his one-man filibuster of a monthlong extension of unemployment and health insurance benefits, reiterating his demand that the measure be fully paid for.

“If we can’t find $10 billion to pay for something that we all support, we will never pay for anything on the floor of the U.S. Senate,” Bunning said.

The acerbic Kentucky Republican began his blockade of the extension last week, leading to a standoff with Senate Democrats on the floor Thursday night. The measure includes reauthorizations to unemployment and COBRA health insurance programs, a set of tax extenders sought by Republicans, and other provisions.

Democrats have seized on the issue and accused Republicans of being obstructionists who are denying aid to thousands of unemployed Americans. Republicans are rallying behind a message of fiscal responsibility and have blamed Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) for not bringing up the measure sooner so partisan differences could be resolved on the floor.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) said Monday that Bunning’s filibuster is a particularly egregious example of how the GOP is abusing Senate rules to stymie the majority’s legislative plans.

“I don’t think just one person should be able to do this. I personally think we should get rid of this … hold rule,” Klobuchar said.

Assistant to the Speaker Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) noted that Bunning’s filibuster provides Democrats with a prime opportunity to “educate” the public on how Republicans have used the Senate’s rules to stall all legislative activity. Bunning has allowed Democrats to “expose the filibuster abuse you’ve seen from so many Republicans in the Senate,” Van Hollen said. “I think he’s done more in the last few days to draw attention to Republican procedural abuses in the Senate than anything we’ve seen.”

Because Reid was unsuccessful in passing the short-term fix last week, the Senate this week will take up a longer-term measure that extends the various programs for a year. But before casting any votes on that bill, the Senate will first consider the nomination of Barbara Milano Keenan to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit. A procedural vote on her nomination is scheduled for 12:15 p.m. Tuesday. If cloture is reached and all debate time is used, the chamber will vote on Keenan’s confirmation Wednesday night, freeing up the floor for the Senate to return to the extenders package.

John Stanton contributed to this report.

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