Bunning Ends Filibuster, Senate to Votes to Extend Unemployment

$10B bill passes after Republican reaches deal with Majority Leader Reid.

ByABC News
March 2, 2010, 1:08 PM

WASHINGTON, March 2, 2010— -- The Senate tonight passed a 30-day extension of unemployment benefits for hundreds of thousands of people around the country whose benefits expire this week, hours after Kentucky Republican Sen. Jim Bunning backed off from his blockade of the legislation.

Bunning had said he would filibuster the bill unless the Senate made spending cuts elsewhere to pay for it, but this evening, he struck an agreement with Democratic Senate Leader Harry Reid to allow the vote to proceed.

The unemployment extension, which also included COBRA subsidies, authorization for higher pay for Medicare doctors and funding for federal highway programs, passed 78-19.

Under the deal with Bunning, Reid agreed to allow a vote on a measure to offset the bill's $10 billion cost with cuts in other programs. However, the off-set measure is expected to fail, and the unemployment extension bill will not be paid for after all.

"I hope Senate Democrats tonight vote for their own pay-fors and show Americans that they are committed to fiscal discipline. I will be watching them closely and checking off the hypocrites one by one," Bunning said in a written statement this evening before the vote.

Bunning's obstruction, however, continues on another front.

Democrats say he has put a hold on all pending presidential nominations, effectively blocking "several dozen" of President Obama's nomations.

This comes after pressure from fellow Republicans, such as Maine Sen. Susan Collins, who had urged Bunning to end his holdout and reconsider his demands.

"I hope that we can act together for the American people," Collins, said today on the Senate floor.

Since last Wednesday, Bunning had blocked a vote on the $10 billion bill -- which also extends Cobra health benefits, pays doctors who serve Medicare patients, provides funding for highway projects and gives rural satellite TV subscribers access to network television -- because he insisted it be paid for with cuts to other programs. Democrats had refused to go along with that.

The deal Bunning struck tonight with Democrats was the same one that he 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 last 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 2,000 Department of Transportation workers.

One of those affected was Joung Moon, an unemployed microbiologist in Texas whose benefits just expired, no unemployment check means she has to move out of her house.

"I don't know what's the next step," Moon told ABC News, grimacing.