More than one million Americans will lose their unemployment insurance and COBRA health benefits if the Senate does not pass an extension of these benefits before they expire on Sunday.
Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell agreed on a measure to extend the aid. The Senate was set to vote last night; however — as Steve Benen of The Washington Monthly put it — "Sen. Jim Bunning…had other plans."
Sen. Bunning launched a filibuster on Thursday evening against these short-term extensions that lasted more than 3.5 hours on the Senate floor. Despite six requests to move to a vote on the bill, Bunning wouldn’t let up. "The stakes are enormous," reports Huffington Post, "State workforce agencies have already sent out letters informing recipients that they’ll be ineligible for ezra "tiers" of benefits starting next month."
Following Sen. Dick Durbin’s sixth unanimous consent request, Reid made one last attempt on Friday morning to persuade Bunning to allow the Senate to move forward with the bill to no avail.
"We talk a lot in the Senate about procedure. Our debate sometimes relates only to procedure. And often that’s appropriate," Reid said. "And, as we know, sometimes these procedural rules we have in the Senate are complex. But the issue before us today is not something that’s arcane, very ritualistic or complex. It’s very simple. And it’s clear — clear that it’s going to be a lot more noticeable by people Monday morning, because it’s going to affect the lives of thousands of Americans and their livelihoods."
Senate Democrats will address this issue again next week when they present a bill that will include a longer-term year extension of unemployment insurance and COBRA health benefits.