Embattled, bitter Kentucky GOP Senator Jim Bunning folded his one-man blockade of federal highway programs and extension of unemployment benefits Tuesday, allowing the Senate to finally pass a $10 billion bill to finance the activities.
President Barack Obama immediately signed the measure into law, allowing 2,000 Department of Transportation workers to return to work and freeing the way for federal funding of highway programs and continuation of unemployment insurance for hundreds of thousands of Americans.
Bunning, under increasing pressure from Republicans and Democrats, finally relented on his stubborn, often rancorous campaign against the bill.
Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington called Bunning’s ability to single-handedly stall the bill an example of “just what’s wrong with Washington, DC,” adding that Bunning’s one-man stand stood “in the way of unemployment benefits of 400,000 Americans.”
With polls showing increasing public anger over Bunning’s actions, Republican leaders stepped up pressure on Bunning to back down. His actions gave Democrats political fodder to portray Republicans as obstructionists who didn’t care about the plight of jobless Americans.
Said Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine: “He’s hurting the American people.”
So Bunning relented and accepted an offer he had rejected several times earlier.