The Senate finally persuaded Republican Senator Jim Bunning to drop his filibuster against the extension of unemployment benefits and voted on March 2 to let Americans in danger of exhausting their benefits to receive another month of aid.
The measure should allow construction to resume on dozens of highway projects. Senators now will begin debating in earnest a much broader bill that would extend the safety net programs through the end of the year.
“It is time for us to stick together, both parties I hope, in an effort to stand up for the unemployed and get this economy back on its feet,” said Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate.
Mr. Bunning’s about-face came after his fellow Republicans began to air their own concerns about how the Senate blockade had the potential to damage their political brand while also having a direct impact on their constituents.
It’s not hard to see why Republicans feared that Bunning’s stand might make them appear heartless. When Sen. Jeff Merkley at one point begged Bunning to remove his one-man roadblock to extending unemployment benefits to more than 1 million Americans about to lose them, Bunning replied: “Tough shit.”
The national unemployment rate at the beginning of the year was 10%. This figure does not include millions of workers who have given up looking for work, nor does it include workers who want full-time work but are only working parttime.