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

GOP sen. foils Dem attempts to enact an extension of unemployment benefits.

ByABC News
February 26, 2010, 11:02 AM

Feb. 26, 2010— -- Republican Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky., foiled Democratic attempts to enact a short-term extension of unemployment benefits and COBRA subsidies for a million Americans.

In the process, he may restrict access to network television for his rural constituents. When Bunning objected to the last-minute vote he complained that he was forced to miss the University of Kentucky college basketball game, which was broadcast on ESPN2.

Bunning doesn't like Democrats' version of a bill to temporarily extend unemployment benefits, subsidies of COBRA insurance and many other things because he wants to pay for it with unused stimulus funds. More than a million Americans long out of work will exhaust their benefits starting Sunday.

"I have missed the Kentucky-South Carolina game that started at 9:00, and it's the only redeeming chance we had to beat South Carolina since they're the only team that has beat Kentucky this year," said Bunning just before midnight Thursday.

The Wildcats are ranked number two and the game last night was to avenge their only loss of the season. Bunning was particularly frustrated, perhaps, because Kentucky won 82-61.

But here's where the political serendipity kicks in. Bunning's objection could keep a lot of Kentuckians in rural areas from seeing Kentucky play games too. While their matchup against Tennessee on Saturday is safe, starting Monday, because of Bunning's objection, satellite providers will have to stop allowing some rural subscribers to watch network television. Kentucky's next network-broadcast game, to be shown on ABC, is against Florida on March 7.

The bill Bunning objected to also included a temporary extension of the law that allows satellite television providers servicing areas without network affiliates to broadcast network service from different areas.

Democrats kept the Senate in session last night until nearly midnight as Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill, and others subjected Bunning to a public shaming on the Senate floor for his objection. They argued he was making a political point about the deficit at the expense of the unemployed.