Bunning’s Next Move Is a Big Question Mark

Posted March 4, 2010 at 2:54pm

It remains unclear whether Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) will continue his war against expansion of the federal debt by trying to block a one-year, longer-term extension of unemployment benefits.

At this point Bunning’s options appear limited: It is all but certain he cannot stop passage of the benefits extension altogether; at best he could only stall final passage for a few days.

An aide in Bunning’s office said the Kentuckian has made no decisions on whether to use what procedural tactics remain to slow the bill.

Following the end of his filibuster of a one-month extension to unemployment insurance earlier this week, Bunning vowed to continue his crusade against deficit spending. “If Democrats continue to ignore their own rules I will oppose future legislation that is not paid for,” Bunning said in a statement Tuesday night following passage of the short-term extension.

Since that time, Democratic and Republican leaders have essentially been flying blind — Bunning has virtually no relationship with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and considers just a few Senators personal friends. As a result, neither party is sure whether Bunning will force a repeat of the one-man floor showdown he held to block the short-term extension of unemployment and health benefits and other programs.

“We don’t really know what it means” when Bunning threatens to block any unpaid-for legislation, a Democratic aide familiar with the situation said Thursday morning.

“He doesn’t tell us anything,” a GOP leadership aide said, noting that Republicans are as unsure about Bunning’s intensions as their Democratic colleagues.