Bunning Blinks?

Mar 2, 2010 2:08pm

ABC's Jonathan Karl reports: In another interview at the Senators-only elevator near his office, Senator Jim Bunning, R-Ky., said he is working on a deal to pass the unemployment extension bill he has been blocking since last Wednesday. “We’re working on it,” Bunning told ABC News.  Could the issue be settled today? “Hopefully,” he said. Bunning has been blocking a vote on the $10 billion bill — which would also extend COBRA health benefits, keep doctors who serve Medicare patients from getting a pay cut, give rural satellite TV subscribers access to network television and provide highway funding – because he insists it be paid for with cuts to other programs. Democrats have refused to go along with that. According to Republican and Democratic sources, the deal Bunning is negotiating with Majority Leader Harry Reid would allow two votes: first, a vote on an amendment to offset the bill’s $10 billion price tag with cuts in other programs; and second, a vote on the bill itself.   This is a deal that Bunning himself rejected on Wednesday because, he said at the time, the vote on the spending cuts would be defeated. “Of course, we can have a vote on it, and, of course, it can be defeated,” Bunning said on Wednesday. ”I was not ready to risk voting on a bill I knew would not get the amount of votes necessary to pay for it.” The dispute has already caused thousands of unemployed workers to see their unemployment benefits expire and led to a furlough of 2000 Department of Transportation workers. As Bunning got on the elevator, I asked him if he is concerned about how this dispute has played out. “No. I am not concerned — except for the people,” he said.

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