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Moderate Republicans vs. Bunning

Democrats are no longer the only ones going after Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) for holding up unemployment benefits.

Sen. Susan Collins, moderate Republican from Maine, took to the chamber floor this morning to request the immediate passage of a House-passed bill providing temporary funding for unemployment insurance, COBRA benefits, highway projects and doctors treating Medicare patients. The request, Collins said, was made “on behalf of numerous members of the Republican caucus” who are concerned “that this was not done last week when it should have been done.”

“There are 500 Mainers whose [UI] benefits expired Sunday,” Collins said.

Bunning, true to his message that the $10 billion proposal be paid for, objected, and in doing so went after fellow Kentuckian, Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell. Roll Call reports:

But in objecting, Bunning took a shot at his own party and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) as he read a letter from a constituent who praised his stand against the bill. McConnell and Bunning have a frosty relationship — it hit a low point last year as Bunning was deliberating over whether to seek another Senate term.

“It’s too bad Sen. Mitch McConnell and some of the elected officials on your side of the aisle do not have the backbone or your sense of decency when it comes to keeping their promises to the American people,” Bunning quoted his constituent from Louisville as writing.

Bunning’s one-man stand against the temporary extension means that Democrats will have to move to a much larger jobs package, which would extend the filing deadline for UI benefits through the end of 2010.

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