Top Democrats look to shame Bunning on unemployment benefits filibuster

Top Democrats sought to shame Republican Sen. Jim Bunning (Ky.) for holding up a 30-day extension in unemployment benefits before the Senate.

Democrats took Bunning to task for what they said was an "abuse" of the Senate's filibuster rules, which resulted in some federal benefits to people having been suspended on Monday.

"What really bothers me about this is to see that one senator could hold up something that everyone pretty much knows would go through," Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) said in a conference call Monday. "To me makes no sense at all."

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Bunning objected to moving forward with an emergency, 30-day extension of unemployment benefits Thursday night over concerns that the measure hadn't been paid for. The Kentucky senator, who will retire at the end of his term in Congress next year, wants the extension paid for by unspent stimulus funds.

"I am very very hopeful that this experience we are having with Sen. Bunning will be very instructive and enlightening for the American people," House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) said. "They are now seeing what it can be like to have these rules, that are no longer relevant to the times in which we live, allow one person...to gum up the work."

Democrats pointed to instances during Bunning's time in the Senate when he had voted for deficit-inducing bills, like two tax cuts favored by President George W. Bush and an expansion of prescription drug benefits, that weren't paid-for.

"This is part of the wake-up call to the American people that Republicans are abusing procedures in the Senate, and it is -- it is costing the American people in terms of the important Medicare access, as well as other health care access and employment compensation that they otherwise would be receiving," said Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) and assistant to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

"We thought it was important to highlight what was really happening," Van Hollen added.

Republican leaders have signaled they're likely to join with Democrats to move forward with the emergency extension in benefits as the Senate Finance Committee works to craft a more permanent solution on the matter.

But the Democrats' lambasting of filibuster "abuse" also comes with the backdrop of the majority party's frustration toward the GOP's use of the filibuster on healthcare, nominees, and almost 300 total pieces of legislation.

Klobuchar said she would personally prefer to do away with the filibuster, which she called "that old rule," and requires 60 votes in the Senate to move forward with the legislation.

"We now have exhibit A in Republican filibuster abuse from Sen. Bunning," Van Hollen said. "I think he's done more in the past few days to draw attention to Republican procedural abuse than anything we've seen before."

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