By Andrew Taylor, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) — To the increasing discomfort of his fellow Republicans, Sen. Jim Bunning on Tuesday again blocked the Senate from extending unemployment benefits and health insurance subsidies for the jobless.
The Kentucky Republican objected to a request by Maine Sen. Susan Collins, a fellow Republican, to pass a 30-day extension of jobless benefits and other expired measures. The measure would also extend highway programs and prevent a big cut in Medicare payments to doctors.
Bunning has been single-handedly blocking the stopgap legislation since Thursday, which is frustrating Republicans like Collins. She said some 500 people from her state alone would lose their unemployment benefits this week, while doctors will soon have to absorb a 21% cut in their Medicare reimbursements.
Frustrated Democrats have been lobbing attacks at Bunning and his fellow Republicans for days. Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., implored Bunning to relent and allow a vote.
But Democrats are also reaping political gains by attacking Bunning and his fellow Republicans. All three major cable news networks carried Tuesday's proceedings live, and two other members of the Democratic leadership, Charles Schumer of New York and Patty Murray of Washington, came to the floor to attack Republicans for blocking the legislation.
"Today we have a clear cut example to show the American people just what's wrong with Washington, D.C.," Murray said. "That is because today one single Republican senator is standing in the way of the unemployment benefits of 400,000 Americans."
"He's hurting the American people," Collins said when asked Tuesday if Bunning was hurting the Republican Party.