The Senate clash over the unemployment benefits ended just before midnight Thursday with Senator Jim Bunning, Republican of Kentucky, refusing to lift his objection, meaning the jobless aid – for however short a time – will run out Sunday night unless a deal is reached Friday.
As the fight drew to a close, Mr. Bunning complained he had been ambushed by the Democrats and was forced to miss the Kentucky-South Carolina basketball game. He said Democrats caused their own problems by dropping the program extensions from an earlier bipartisan jobs measure.
Democrats, in unusually personal terms, challenged Mr. Bunning, a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame, for denying aid to tens of thousands of Americans struggling in a bad economy, even reading letters from Kentucky residents about their own problems.
“I just don’t think one senator ought to be able to heap this kind of suffering and misfortune on people who are already struggling in this economy,” Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Democrat, said, chastising his Republican colleague. “This is a wild pitch you are throwing tonight because it is pitch that is hitting somebody in the stands.”
Senator Claire McCaskill said the decision to block the unemployment pay as well as the opportunity to buy health insurance showed how far removed some lawmakers were from the plight of out-of-work Americans.
“It is easy to get out of touch around this place,’’ Mrs. McCaskill said. “People open doors for you and bow and scrape. It’s really easy to forget what people are going through, what families are feeling right now. And really, 30 days of unemployment insurance – have we gotten to the point that that’s going to be a political football?’’
With Mr. Bunning refusing to relent, Democrats will have to move to override his objections but a vote probably cannot occur until early next week.