What Do Unemployment, College Basketball and Politics Have in Common?

Bunning sounded a little bitter when he talked about the Senate election commercials (without his own) rural Kentuckians would miss when their satellite TV stops.

"I feel sorry for the people in Kentucky that live in East Kentucky that may lose their satellite home viewer act for a day or two because they'll miss all those campaign commercials that are going on, and I know how they desperately want to watch those," he said.

Bunning again mentioned the Senate campaign going on without him later in the speech.

"If you think the tea party people are crazy, get them involved in your Senate race. Or get them against you when you're running," he said.

A new favorite in the Kentucky Republican Senate primary is Rand Paul, the son of Libertarian Republican Ron Paul, R-Texas.

Extension of Benefits Debate

But Bunning, alone among his Republican colleagues, would not bend on his objection to extending benefits without a way to offset the $10 billion expenditure elsewhere in the budget.

"In my 24 years of service, I have never seen the congress of the United States perform as badly as we are performing presently," said Bunning.

The benefits, already extended several times, will run out for more than a million workers this starting this weekend.

The number of unemployed losing benefits would snowball to nearly 5 million by June if Senators cannot reach agreement.

Bunning sparred with Democrats on the floor Thursday night. He said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was at fault.

Bunning also expressed frustration with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for paring down a jobs bill passed earlier this week. That jobs bill originally included a three- month extension of unemployment benefits. But Reid pulled the unemployment and COBRA measures as well as unrelated tax credits to consider later in March. Reid had said he wanted the original jobs bill to focus on job creation measures like a payroll tax credit for employers.

If Democrats had considered that bill earlier in the week, said Bunning, "We wouldn't have spent three hours-plus telling everybody in the United States of America that Senator Bunning doesn't give a damn about the people that are on unemployment, the doctors that I represent, that I didn't want to extend (payments to Medicare doctors), that all of the other things -- COBRA, flood insurance, small business loans and small business provisions."

Republicans criticized Reid's selection of the pared down bill because many favored the larger proposal, which included a number of popular tax credits.

But only Bunning objected tonight to the short-term unemployment extension.

Senators had spent the last two days burning procedurally mandated floor time on a tourism promotion bill favored by Reid, who represents the tourism-dependent state of Nevada. An extension of unemployment benefits in November took nearly a month even though it ultimately passed 98-0.

Reid's travel promotion bill now goes to the President. Republicans, frustrated that they could not amend the bill, held it up for two days on the Senate floor even though in the end, it passed 78-18.

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