Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) said Democrats are at fault for Monday's expiration of unemployment benefits for thousands of people.
“Before the Senate adjourned for the Easter Recess, Senate Republicans and Senate Democrats had agreed to pass a one-week extension of unemployment benefits that was fully paid for," Bunning said in a statement Monday. "Unfortunately, the House Democrat leadership said no, and then Congress left town knowing the benefits would expire. Earlier, Senate Democrats voted to kill a one-month extension that was fully offset and did not add to the deficit."
Democrats have said there was no deal that was finalized, and they have pinned the blame on Republicans for blocking a swift vote on a month-long extension of the unemployment benefits.
Bunning in March single-handedly blocked a quick vote on an earlier month-long extension of unemployment insurance, only to relent under pressure from Democrats and some centrist Republicans. Bunning argued that the roughly $10 billion cost of the extension should have been paid for, while Democrats said it was "emergency spending" that should be passed quickly.
More than 200,000 unemployed workers will go without unemployment checks they were expecting each week that Congress fails to pass an extension of the jobless benefits program, according to the National Employment Law Project.
Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) is objecting to another extension as long as it isn't paid for. Unlike Bunning, he has strong public support from Senate GOP leaders.
Bunning echoed Coburn's argument that Republicans are willing to work with Democrats to find an offset for the cost of the extension so it doesn't add to the $12.8 trillion federal debt.
“We could have stayed in Washington to resolve the issue and see that these benefits are extended and paid for, but it seems the Democrats thought it was more important to catch their planes," Bunning said. "I am disappointed that the Democrats continue to play political games to avoid paying for these benefits that are so important to the many struggling families across our nation who rely on them to make ends meet while they search for work. Clearly, the Democrats don’t want to help the unemployed unless they can increase the deficit while they’re doing it.”