Video: Bunning backs down

NBC News and news services
updated 3/2/2010 9:54:58 PM ET 2010-03-03T02:54:58

A GOP senator who had blocked passage of a stopgap budget measure on Tuesday accepted a deal to allow the 30-day package of benefits to pass.

Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky., agreed to a deal Tuesday night to end the standoff, which caused federal furloughs and threatened the unemployment benefits of hundreds of thousands of people. The Kentucky senator had said he was concerned that the $10 billion measure's cost was not offset.

Under the agreement, Bunning was permitted to request a vote on an amendment that would have paid for the cost of the package. A procedural motion to take up the amendment failed by a vote of 43-53.

The Senate passed the temporary extension of benefits by a vote of 78-19.

"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 statement before the vote on his amendment.

Earlier on Tuesday, Bunning objected to a request by Maine Sen. Susan Collins, a fellow Republican, to pass the 30-day extension of jobless benefits and other measures that expired Monday.

When asked Tuesday if Bunning was hurting the Republican Party, Collins said, "He's hurting the American people."

Bunning had been blocking the stopgap legislation since Thursday, which frustrated Republicans like Collins. She said some 500 people from her state alone would lose their unemployment benefits this week, while doctors will soon have to absorb a 21 percent cut in their Medicare reimbursements.

Frustrated Democrats lobbed criticism at Bunning and his fellow Republicans for days.

Democrat after Democrat came to the floor Tuesday to attack Republicans for blocking the legislation.

"Today we have a clear cut example to show the American people just what's wrong with Washington, D.C.," Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said. "That is because today one single Republican senator is standing in the way of the unemployment benefits of 400,000 Americans."

"They've gone too far," Majority Leader Harry Reid told reporters. "They've gone too far in blocking these unemployment benefits."

The Transportation Department says that 2,000 agency workers were furloughed with the lapse of highway funding. They're likely to be awarded back pay once the program is revived.

NBC's Kelly O'Donnell contributed to this report.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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