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Jim Bunning Stands Ground, Takes Heat

(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Sen. Jim Bunning, R- Ky., is being harshly criticized for his decision to block the short-term extension of health insurance benefits set to expire Sunday.

"Right now a single Republican is blocking the extension of unemployment insurance which means if he succeeds one million people, one million people next month will be thrown off the unemployment rolls," Vice President Joe Biden said, according to Fox News.

Biden added that as a result of Bunning's move "one million people will be thrown into nothing but despair."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, meanwhile, said "it is really hard to understand why one senator in the United States Senate is holding up the extension of unemployment insurance at this time."

"But he is, and I'm pleased that the Senate Democrats are trying to make a move to dislodge that," she added, Politico reports.

Bunning objected to Senate passage of a one-month extension of government benefits, including unemployment benefits, COBRA health care benefits and the Medicare Doctor fix. Democrats pressured the senator to relent on Thursday and Friday, but he refused. Bunning is acting without the support of his fellow Republicans, and Democrats are casting him as out of touch with regular Americans.

At one point, Bunning, who is not seeking reelection, said "tough s—t." He also reportedly "complained he had been ambushed by the Democrats and was forced to miss the Kentucky-South Carolina basketball game."

Bunning says he wants to renew the programs, which costs 10.3 billion, but only once they are adequately paid for. (He advocates using stimulus funds.) Democrats are expected to vote to override his block early next week. The Senate could use procedural motions to pass the short term extensions on Tuesday. The House passed the package Thursday night.

Unemployed Americans could still file for this week's benefits Sunday and Monday, but without an extension benefits for next week would be affected.

CBS News Capitol Hill Producer John Nolen reports that short term extension bill includes:

•Unemployment insurance: extends unemployment benefits increased payouts and longer duration of benefits through April 5
•Health Insurance COBRA benefits: extends COBRA health insurance subsidy through March 28
•Medicare doctor Payment: delays a scheduled cut in Medicare physician payments through March 28
•Highway funding: highway project funding through March 28
•Flood Insurance: extends National Flood Insurance Program through March 28
•Satellite Television: extends copyright license used by satellite television providers through March 28.

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