Ky. senator defends benefits tactic

March 1, 2010 at 11:25 PM
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WASHINGTON, March 1 (UPI) -- Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky., Monday defended his tactic in blocking a bill to extend benefits due to expire for hundreds of thousands of unemployed Americans.

Bunning said last week he was blocking the bill because its $10 billion cost was not offset in the federal budget. The White House and congressional Democrats criticized him for not allowing the bill to go forward.

On the Senate floor Thursday night, Bunning complained that Senate debate on the measure was running so late he was forced to miss the Kentucky-South Carolina men's college basketball game. As he was approached Monday for comment on the legislation, he told reporters from ABC News and CNN he "wasn't talking to anybody."

Later Monday, speaking on the Senate floor, Bunning said he supported extending benefits for unemployed Americans, as well as several other programs in the measure including flood insurance, highway projects, small business loans and Medicare payments to doctors.

"But if we can't find $10 billion to pay for something that we all support, we will never pay for anything on the floor of this U.S. Senate," he said.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, a Republican, criticized Bunning for holding up the legislation, which led to a furlough of 2,000 federal inspectors and suspension of work on 41 federal construction projects.

"As American families are struggling in tough economic times, I am keenly disappointed that political games are putting a stop to important construction projects around the country," LaHood said.

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