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Bunning Halts Unemployment Extension (Again)

Senate Democrats this morning tried to pass a 30-day extension of unemployment benefits (among other things), designed to allow the upper-chamber more time to crunch the details of a longer-term fix.

It didn’t happen.

Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) objected to the request for unanimous consent, insisting that the extension be paid for. The Hall-of-Fame baseball pitcher, who’s retiring at the end of this year, has proposed an amendment to cover the $10 billion tab using unspent stimulus funds, though he says he’s in favor of other offsets as well.

“Everybody in this chamber wants to extend unemployment benefits,” Bunning said on the Senate floor. “[But] if we can’t find a $10 billion somewhere for a bill that everybody in this body supports, we will never pay for anything.”

It’s not the first time. Yesterday, a group of Senate lawmakers remained in the chamber until nearly midnight as the Democrats tried to get an agreement on the 30-day UI extension. Bunning didn’t budge.

The impasse means that those who exhaust their UI benefits after Sunday’s filing deadline will have to wait for Congress to pass a longer-term extension — a bill Senate leaders plan to take up early next week.

It won’t be an immediate vote. Although party leaders have reached an agreement to proceed to the bill (meaning Democrats won’t have to slog through cloture procedures just to bring the bill to the floor), the final vote will likely require a cloture vote due to Bunning’s objections.

Meanwhile, unemployed workers will slowly be losing their benefits, with roughly 1.2 million folks projected to drop from the rolls in March alone without congressional action.

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