Bunning agrees to stop blocking unemployment bill

Deal ends one-man filibuster of legislation to extend benefits

Topics: U.S. Senate, War Room, Jim Bunning,

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has reportedly reached a deal with Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky., that will end Bunning’s one-man block of a bill to extend unemployment benefits. The legislation is now slated to come up for a vote on the Senate floor later tonight; it’s expected to pass easily.

But that’s not the end of the saga of Jim Bunning that’s been unfolding in recent days. The senator has also put a hold on all of President Obama’s pending nominees — several dozen of them, the majority leader’s office has said. 

Bunning is the gift that keeps giving to Democrats lately. Ever since Bunning began blocking the unemployment billlast week, Democrats have been working hard to make political hay out of his obstructionism, and to tar his fellow Republicans with it.

They’ve got good reason: Making Bunning’s actions an issue helps Democrats on two fronts. For one thing, in an election year likely to be all about jobs and the economy, the whole drama conveys the sense that Congressional Democrats have been working hard for Americans who are suffering, only to have Republicans block their efforts. For another, it puts obstruction in the Senate in the spotlight at a time when Democrats are girding their loins for a political fight over using reconciliation to pass healthcare reform.

Democrats might have gotten another political victory of a sort had Bunning not agreed to relent on the unemployment bill. They were reportedly considering holding an all-night session that would have forced Bunning to be physically present in order to maintan his objection to a vote. The left has been dying to see their elected representatives make Republicans conduct an actual filibuster like that, rather than the virtual ones now standard in the Senate.


Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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