Capitol Hill Bureau Chief
Senate Democrats reached a deal with Sen. Jim Bunning of Kentucky late Tuesday to end his filibuster of a bill to temporarily extend unemployment benefits. In exchange for allowing the Senate to move forward, Bunning will get a vote on his proposal to offset the $10 billion cost of the bill.
Bunning's amendment would end a tax credit awarded to a bio-fuels process, saving $24 billion -- more than enough to finance the jobless benefits.
The Senate voted on both measures Tuesday night, with Bunning's amendment failing on a vote of 43 to 53, and the overall bill passing 78 to 19.
The deal followed intense criticism by both Democrats and Republicans of Bunning's four-day filibuster.
Earlier Tuesday, Senate Republicans urged their colleague to give up his filibuster against extending unemployment benefits for 30 days. Bunning objected to the measure because the benefits would be paid for with deficit spending.
"This is one senator," Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), a member of the Republican leadership, said Tuesday. "This doesn't represent the position of the caucus."
Cornyn said that he agrees with Bunning's objections to the Democrats' deficit spending, but, "I think there's a better way to make the point. There's a real problem here with expiring benefits."
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) pleaded with Bunning earlier Tuesday to end his filibuster and said that several of her fellow Republicans shared her concerns. "Numbers of my colleagues have expressed frustration that we have been unable to move forward on a bill when it is so important to their constituents."
Criticism of Bunning was widespread across the Capitol, but so was criticism of Democrats, who have waived their own new "Pay Go" rules to prevent deficit spending on every bill they have considered since passing the legislation several weeks ago. Senate Democrats declared the jobless benefits "emergency spending" and therefore did not have to find offsets to pay for them through new taxes or cuts to an existing program.
"They've sworn abstinence but the party continues," Cornyn said, calling the Democrats' spending proposals "complete hypocrisy."
Said Bunning, according to the Los Angeles Times: "It is really hypocritical of the Democrats to argue for pay as you go, then to present a bill that is not only not paid for, not a little bit."
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid dismissed talk that Democrats could have avoided the entire episode with Bunning by asking for a vote on the unemployment measure last week, which Reid chose not to do. Reid also cut the unemployment benefits from his own jobs bill, which passed the Senate last week.