Sen. Barrasso: Bunning left D.C. before healthcare votes

A Republican senator on Thursday said that one Republican who has missed the last series of healthcare votes returned to his home state a couple days ago.

Sen. Jim Buning (R-Ky.) has missed several procedural votes running up to the $871 billion healthcare reform bill's final passage today, including the final cloture vote on Wednesday. Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), in an interview on Fox News this morning, said that Bunning has already returned home for the holidays.  

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"He wasn't there to vote yesterday or today," he said. "He wished of us all a Merry Christmas two days ago and I think he went back to Kentucky to be with his family."

Bunning's absence deprived Senate Republicans of the unanimous opposition on healthcare reform on the official vote count as they hoped. The 39 Republican senators who were present all voted against cloture on the healthcare bill and all voted no on the final vote.

The Kentucky senator announced ealier this year that he is retiring after the 2010 midterm elections.

All 60 members of the Democratic caucus voted yes on both votes.

Asked what he thought about Bunning's absence, the Wyoming senator said "I'm going to stay here and continue to fight the fight and going to do that. I will hopefully be home in Wyoming tonight."

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell 's (R-Ky.) office has not yet responded to a request for comment.