Well, it seems the GOP has had a change of heart. According to a report by Politico‘s Manu Raju this morning, multiple Republicans in the Senate are now preparing to repeat Bunning’s scheme to block unemployment benefits if Democrats attempt to pass an emergency extension of them again, a move that could come as early as this week.
Playing the role of Bunning next time will likely be Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK). But he’ll have an ensemble cast to help.Raju reports that “several other GOP senators” said they would jump on board with Coburn blockade if the Democrats try to extend benefits without using the pay-go rules to fund them again. Among the supporters, apparently, is Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), who attempted to stop Bunning the last time.
“The last time was an emergency situation – but we can’t keep doing one-month extensions that aren’t paid for,” Collins told Politico. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) also expressed support for the idea of a second Bunning-style move, and told Raju that other Republican Senators are likely to get on board as well.
Coburn is the main architect, the man who would likely start the ball rolling. He told Politico he’s prepared to keep Senators in DC through their scheduled two-week recess, set to begin on Friday.
Ironically, one of the few Republicans not to tell Politico he’d join the effort was Bunning himself, the man who’s surprise block led to a multi-day standoff that shut down many government projects briefly. But Bunning didn’t say he wouldn’t go along with Coburn’s plan — he just said he wouldn’t tell Politico if he would or not. (It’s not the first time Bunning has dodged a reporter.)
For their part, Democrats are ecstatic that the Republicans are considering taking a page from Bunning’s playbook. A Democrat pointed out to me today that some polls showed Democrats came out on top of the Bunning fight, which they said did more than any press release to showcase the Democratic talking point that Republicans are “the party of no.”
But, as Raju points out, this time Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will see the move coming and could take steps to shut it down before it gets underway:
For now, it’s hard to say whether the tough talk is anything more than political posturing. [Senate Minority Leader Mitch] McConnell and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) could reach a deal to schedule a series of votes that would give each side cover – and allow for final passage soon after. Or Reid could file cloture to override a GOP filibuster, which would require 60 votes to invoke, allowing senators to get out of town.