Republican Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY) on Thursday night expressed his opposition to renewing unemployment benefits on the Senate floor with an unusually harsh message for its backers: “Tough shit.”
Bunning repeatedly and single-handedly objected to an effort by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) to attain unanimous consent among senators for extending COBRA and other benefits to out-of-work individuals across America.
“I don’t think it’s fair to do what you are proposing to do,” he said to Durbin. “And I’ll be here as long as you’re here, and as long as all those other senators are here, and I’m going to object every time.”
In a colloquy with Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Sen. Jeff Merkley, a freshman Democrat from Oregon, was pleading for Bunning to drop his objection, when the Kentucky Republican got fed up. “Tough s—t,” Bunning said as he was seated in the back row, overheard by the floor staff and others in attendance.
It’s a move that would usually give senators pause regardless of their ideological or partisan affiliation, but Bunning isn’t concerned with his own job security as he is retiring at the end of his current term.
Durbin noted that Bunning has touted in press releases the importance of unemployment benefits to struggling families in Kentucky. The Huffington Post‘s Arthur Delaney notes that the Kentucky unemployment rate is currently 10.7 percent. He adds:
The stakes are enormous: provisions of last year’s stimulus bill that allow extra weeks of unemployment benefits and COBRA health coverage are set to expire on Feb. 28. State workforce agencies have already sent out letters informing recipients that they’ll be ineligible for extra “tiers” of benefits starting next month. The National Employment Law Project estimates that 1.2 million people will prematurely lose benefits in March.
Bunning claimed he was concerned about the impact of the benefits extension on the deficit and insisted the funds come out of President Obama’s stimulus package.
Bloggers at the progressive Web site Daily Kos weren’t happy, calling the GOP the “party of mean.”
“Bunning is the poster-child of the most callous, heartless political party in modern American history, and they are proud of it,” argued Jed Lewison. “If they get their way, this coming Sunday, unemployment benefits will expire for countless out-of-work Americans because a handful of extremist ideologues decided to tie the U.S. Senate up in knots.”
The following video is from C-SPAN 2, uploaded by Daily Kos.