A storm has developed in Washington from a one-man filibuster - the one I told you about earlier, mounted by Sen Jim Bunning, R-KY, who single-handedly blocked a short term extension of unemployment insurance and COBRA benefits, in order to pull stimulus funds over to offset the expense to the federal government. Democrats rejected the attempt, calling the situation an emergency, citing the recession and a naggingly high unemployment rate hovering around 10% with experts predicting little change this year.
Bunning spokesman Mike Reynard tells Fox that the senator does want to see the benefits extended. "He supports the bill. He believes it's essential, but it's got to be paid for." Bunning has supported such extensions in the past, Reynard noted, "but they were paid for."
Meanwhile, the phones in the Bunning office "are ringing off the hook," Reynard said. Most appear to be negative, but "we are getting some positive, supportive calls," Reynard said. At times, even reporters calling Reynard have gotten a busy signal, something that usually never happens with the multi-line Senate phone system.
And you can bet that call volume is about to go up. Cong. Gary Peters, D-MI, just put out a rather unusual release with Bunning's office number on it, saying, "I encourage everyone who cares about this issue to call Senator Jim Bunning."
It might seem indecorous for such a thing to be done to a fellow member of Congress, but Michigan has been rocked by sky-high unemployment. Members of the congressional delegation are quite active in seeking relief for the depressed auto and manufacturing industries, for increasing unemployment benefits.
The feisty Kentucky senator, a former Major League Baseball/Hall of Fame pitcher, has gone back to his home state, but when he returns next week, Reynard said he is just as likely to stick to his guns as the Senate takes up a longer term extension of benefits. So -- the fight is certainly not over...