Bunning Takes One for the Team

With Democrats relishing his gift of gaffe and fellow Republicans supporting him the way Gatorade did Tiger Woods, lame duck Kentucky Senator Jim Bunning has ended his game of political solitaire. Bunning, an MLB Hall of Fame pitcher in his younger days, today backed off his refusal to allow a vote on a spending bill extension. This means nearly 2000 furloughed DOT workers will be back on the job on Wednesday, and fears of massive stoppage of federally funded roadway projects can be set to rest…for another month anyway.

WASHINGTON (AP) – A Republican that had been stubbornly blocking a stopgap measure to extend help for the jobless relented on Tuesday under withering assaults from Democrats and dwindling support within his own party.

Sen. Jim Bunning of Kentucky had been single-handedly blocking the $10 billion measure, causing federal furloughs and threatening the unemployment benefits of hundreds of thousands of people. He was seeking to force Democrats to find ways to finance the bill so that it wouldn’t add to the deficit, but his move sparked a political tempest that has subjected Republicans to withering media coverage and cost the party politically.

The bill is now slated to come to a vote Tuesday night. It passed the House last week and is likely to be signed into law immediately by President Barack Obama so that 2,000 furloughed Transportation Department workers can go back to work on Wednesday. They’re likely to be awarded back pay once the program is revived.

A law that provided stopgap road funding and longer and more generous unemployment benefits and health insurance subsidies for the jobless expired Monday. Without the extension, about 200,000 jobless people would have lost federal benefits this week alone, according to the liberal-leaning National Employment Law Project.

The measure to be voted on tonight would extend through the end of the month several programs that expired on Monday, including the jobless aid, federal highway funding and help for doctors facing cuts in Medicare payments.


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