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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Grumpy Old Party

If you are unemployed, or if you are one of the millions of people hanging on to cancelled employer-sponsored health insurance via COBRA, your life will take a turn for the more insecure on Sunday, thanks to Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY), who wants to make a symbolic gesture about federal spending. Bunning is refusing to let the Senate vote on totally noncontroversial extenders for these provisions, which will probably force a cloture vote and at least a week’s delay in restoring unemployment insurance and COBRA.
What makes this weird is that Bunning is taking this action not to secure any concessions on present or future legislation, but to express his grumpiness about something that’s already happened: Senate passage of the first chunk of jobs legislation by a 70-28 vote.
Now you have to appreciate that Bunning is a very angry old man. Never a very genial soul, he was pushed into retirement by his own party because it looked like he would be defeated even in a good Republican year, in part because he’s exhibited some signs of being a few bricks shy of a load. So he’s mad at his colleagues, and maybe even mad at his constituents, for their failure to let him serve in the Senate into his ninth decade of walking the earth.
The most appropriate response to Bunning’s grievances is probably the words the senator himself contemptuously uttered yesterday to Sens. Dick Durbin and Jeff Merkley when they cited the plight of the unemployed and soon-to-be-uninsured in asking him to let the extenders come to a vote: “Tough s__t!” The people he’s affecting with his little fit of pique have a lot more to complain about than Bunning, who’s largely wasted twelve years in the Senate being a grumpy old man. But he is a fitting symbol of the obstructionism of his party in Congress, which knows no bounds and feels no shame.

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