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Schieffer: "Unconscionable" Bunning Hold Just Politics

While Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky., claimed his hold on a bill extending jobless benefits was based on principle, the episode is being criticized as the product of a political feud within the Republican party.

"The back story here is Sen. Bunning is in a feud with the Republican leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell,"Face the Nation" host Bob Schieffer said on CBS' "The Early Show" Wednesday. "He wanted McConnell and Republicans to support him in a bid for re-election. They did not do that. He's been seething and so while the Republicans were trying to move on ... he puts a hold on it and it takes three or four days to get it done. It's unconscionable."

The hold, which Bunning lifted Tuesday night, cut off extended unemployment benefits and health insurance subsidies for hundreds of thousands of jobless Americans. It also bottled up stopgap funding for highway programs, prompting the Department of Transportation to send some employees on furlough.

The measure passed the Senate by a 78-19 vote and President Obama signed it into law Tuesday night.

Bunning said the move was aimed at forcing Democrats to find ways to pay for the programs. But the Democrats have been able to seize on the episode to further paint the GOP as the "party of no."

With no support among Republican leadership for his reelection bid, Bunning is set to retire at the end of his term.

With the jobless benefits extension passed, focus returns to health care reform. President Obama signaled Tuesday his willingness to include four Republican proposals in his health care plan: undercover investigations of health care providers that receive federal funding; expansion of health savings accounts; grant money to study alternatives to malpractice lawsuits; and raising doctor reimbursements for Medicare.

Mr. Obama is set to discuss his proposal at the White House Wednesday, but Republicans haven't embraced the compromise measures. The Democrats aim to push through the package without Republican support, but Schieffer said that remains unlikely.

Mr. Obama's efforts may, however, shape the national political debate in an election year.

"What the president is trying to do here is to be able to say to the country, 'Listen, I've reached out. I did everything I could possibly do to get Republican support and they just wouldn't go along with it,'" Schieffer said.

"And now he will try to pass health care on a straight party line vote. That's going to be very complicated. I think at this point he really doesn't have the votes to get that done. He's trying to set himself up in a position that if this fails, he can say it's the fault of the Republicans."