By Michael O'Brien - 03/03/10 12:12 AM EST
Bunning agreed to stop blocking legislation to extend benefits and COBRA health plan subsidies to the unemployed after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) agreed to allow him a vote on an amendment to pay for the $10 billion bill.
It’s the same deal Bunning was offered last week, but Bunning at the time decided to continue his fight. He’d been holding up an extension of the benefits since Thursday.
The Senate was scheduled to vote on the 30-day extension after The Hill’s press time.
Bunning made the deal came after finding himself squarely in the national spotlight.
On Tuesday morning, all three cable news networks broadcast portions of the Senate’s floor debate, in which Bunning continued to lodge the objections he began raising last Thursday.
Bunning had demanded that the $10 billion bill be paid for out of unspent stimulus funds.
Democrats ratcheted up their attacks on Bunning all week. They sought to shame Bunning for allowing benefits to lapse for people in need, and to portray his actions as an abuse of the filibuster.
Senate Democrats expanded their line of attack to include Bunning’s Republican colleagues, arguing in an e-mail to reporters that silence by any Senate Republican was tantamount to acceptance of Bunning’s tactics on the bill.
“Some members of the Republican leadership have supported Sen. Bunning, but others have remained quiet,” Reid’s office said in an e-mail. “When will Republican leaders take a stand on Bunning’s filibuster?”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) struck a somewhat muted tone on his Kentucky colleague at a press availability Tuesday afternoon, pledging to hammer out a deal on the expired benefits.
“We're working on this, and we believe we can reach a consent agreement that will allow some amendments and allow us to approve the short-term measure and move ahead,” McConnell told reporters at the Capitol. “And I think we'll be able to announce something, hopefully in the near future.”
Some signs of fracture did emerge in the Senate Republican
Conference on Tuesday, though, when Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) took to the
Senate floor to join with Democrats in criticizing Bunning’s blockade.
Still, other Senate Republicans, such as South Carolina’s Sen. Jim DeMint (S.C.), offered support for Bunning, a sentiment echoed by at least four other GOP senators.
Bunning on Tuesday appeared ready to deal. He told reporters he was looking to resolve the impasse “as soon as possible.”
“We're working on it,” Bunning told reporters in a video captured by ABC News.
J. Taylor Rushing contributed to this story.