White House: Bunning’s Block on Unemployment Benefits is “Fundamentally Not Fair”

By Lindsey Ellerson

Feb 26, 2010 6:42pm

ABC News’ Karen Travers reports: The White House pushed back strongly today against Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky), who last night blocked an extension for unemployment benefits and COBRA subsidies for millions of Americans, calling the Republican’s actions “fundamentally not fair.” Vice President Biden and White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs both publicly excoriated Bunning for blocking the extension last night in the Senate.  The benefits, already extended several times, will run out for more than a million workers this starting this weekend and the number of unemployed losing benefits would snowball to nearly 5 million by June if Senators cannot reach agreement. Bunning has said he wants the benefits to be offset elsewhere in the budget, or paid for with unused stimulus funds, and argued that the costs would add to the deficit. Vice President Biden said he was “disappointed” by his former Senate colleague’s actions. “Right now a single Republican senator is standing up in the chamber I worked in for a long, long time, and he is filibustering the extension of a number of things we had in the recovery act to begin with, which make a fundamental difference in the near-term concern of middle-class people,” Biden said at an event focused on the middle class. “He's blocking the extension of — of unemployment insurance, which means if he succeeds, 1 million people next month will be thrown off the unemployment rolls; 1 million people will be thrown into — with nothing but what I would call despair.” Gibbs said in his daily briefing that the Senate should act to ensure that no Americans lose their benefits because of one senator blocking the legislation. “One senator has decided to hold up unemployment benefits that will expire at the end of this month for 400,000 Americans,” Gibbs said. “One senator has decided to hold up legislation that would prevent a drastic cut in the payments for doctors serving Medicare patients.” Last night Bunning complained that he was missing the Kentucky-South Carolina men’s basketball game because of the Senate vote. Gibbs pointed out today that Bunning’s Wildcats won and now the Kentucky senator should get his eyes back on the ball with this legislation. “These are the type of games that the American people fail to understand,” Gibbs said. “These are the type of instances where for some reason one person can throw out all measure of common sense and hurt hundreds of thousands of Americans that have unfortunately lost their jobs as a result of this economic downturn.” When it was pointed out that, in response to criticism, Bunning reportedly said “tough sh**,” Gibbs said that he hopes the Kentucky lawmaker “has more encouraging words than that for them.” -Karen Travers

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