GOP Sen. Bunning threatens to sue fellow Republicans
Stephen C. Webster
Published: Tuesday February 24, 2009

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It wasn't so long ago when one of the GOP's greatest rallying cries -- apart from keeping homosexuals away from wedding chapels -- was the elimination of frivolous lawsuits.

"Tort reform," they called it, evoking images of ambulance-chasing, money-grubbing "trial lawyers" and greedy, spoiled Americans eager to sue over so much as spilled coffee.

But really, what could be less frivolous than a little old-fashioned infighting? On Tuesday, Senator Jim Bunning threatened to sue fellow Republicans if they do not support his bid for reelection in 2010.

Bunning's threat was leveled after rumors that the National Republican Senatorial Committee was courting David Williams, president of the Kentucky State Senate, to take a shot at the incumbent senator's seat.

"Support of incumbents is the only reason for (the NRSC's) existence," Bunning said. "So if they recruited someone and supported them in a primary against me, I would be able to sue them because theyíre not following their bylaws."

"Just to clear up any potential confusion, the NRSC supports Sen. Bunning," Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), chairman of the NRSC, told Kentucky's Courier-Journal.

The Texan called it a "misunderstanding," though Bunning was much more terse.

"I donít believe anything John Cornyn says," the senator told the Courier-Journal. "Iíve had miscommunications with John Cornyn from, I guess, the first week of this current session of the Senate. He either doesnít understand English or he doesnít understand direct: ĎIím going to run,í which I said to him in the cloakroom of our chamber."

"Amber Wilkerson, a spokeswoman for the N.R.S.C., wrote in an e-mail message that Mr. Cornyn 'has no intention of recruiting a primary opponent against him,'" reported the New York Times. "She added that the meeting with David Williams, the president of the Kentucky Senate, was just a courtesy visit."

For just a Tuesday, Sen. Bunning is having one bad week. Monday, after a firestorm of criticism, he apologized for predicting Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg would be dead within nine months. Ginsburg was recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

In his apology, Bunning misspelled Ginsburg's name. Of course, it was not the senator's first scrape with controversy.

"Bunning once compared [a Democratic challenger's] appearance to one of Saddam Hussein's sons, and made an unsubstantiated claim that his wife wound up 'black and blue' after an alleged encounter with his rival's staffers at a political picnic," reported USA Today after Bunning narrowly won reelection in 2004.

"The senator also admitted he was unaware that a group of Army reservists had refused a convoy mission in Iraq, and said he hadn't read a newspaper in weeks and relied on Fox News for information."

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