The Senate tonight voted 78 to 19 (with three members not voting, including Kay Bailey Hutchinson, who was busy losing the Texas gubernatorial primary to an insane person) to extend unemployment benefits, highway funds and other emergency spending, ending a three-day legislative hostage taking by Kentucky Republican Jim Bunning, who held up unemployment benefits for some 200,000 Americans out of personal pique. The 19 Senators who voted against extending the benefits included Bunning’s Kentucky colleague, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, uber-right winger Jim DeMint, and Bunning himself. John Kyl, the Arizona Republican who distinguished himself this week by supporting Bunning’s blanket hold with the argument that unemployment benefits make people lazy … weaseled out on his “principals” and voted for the bill, as did Florida’s Senate temp George LeMieux, who stopped “sympathizing” with Bunning long enough to vote “aye.” Still no word from Marco Rubio on where he would have stood on the bill.
The full list of “nos” –
Before voting on the full bill, the Senate dispatched Bunning’s amendment, which he got to put on the floor as part of the deal to stand him down, by a vote of 53-43. Bunning wanted to offset the cost of the one-month extension of benefits (a temporary measure while the full extension and jobs package is debated) by closing a tax loophole for paper companies, according to Business Week. But amending the main bill would have forced a conference committee, since the Senate bill would then differ from the one already passed in the House. That would have meant days, and possibly weeks, more debate, while 400,000 people’s benefits ended March 13. MSNBC reported tonight that Reid actually got Bunning to stand down by leaking word to Roll Call that he was about to make the old man stand on his feet all night long and filibuster for real.
This particular crisis has passed, but it sure has been illuminating … Bunning was pilloried all over the place, except within the tea party movement, where he became an instant hero, and among the bolder segments of the right wing (a la DeMint,) where the truth did out: these people don’t believe unemployed people should get even the meager benefits that unemployment insurance provides. Examples of Bunning’s tea party love here, here and as reported by Mother Jones.