Republican Sen. Jim Bunning of Kentucky set off a firestorm this week when he single-handedly blocked a vote to extend unemployment benefits. His filibuster also led to the furloughs of 2,000 federal transportation workers and cut Medicare payments to doctors.
When Bunning finally relented after five days, the Senate passed the $10 billion extension Tuesday night by a vote of 78-19.
Among those voting 'No' with Bunning: Republican Richard Burr of North Carolina.
Extension affected many of the 250,000 North Carolinians collecting unemployment, according to the state Employment Security Commission.
Burr spokesman David Ward said the senator objected to passing the spending bill without including a way to pay for it. He voted for Bunning's amendment that would have paid for the bill by closing a tax loophole. It was shot down.
“Sen. Burr supports extending unemployment insurance, COBRA, and other important programs, but he believes we ought to pay for these spending increases rather than just add them to the debt," Ward said. Burr "opposed final passage because this spending was not offset by cuts elsewhere in the budget. After all the hype about PAY-GO, the Democrats cannot live up to even their own standards.”
But Burr's vote gave ammunition to Democratic rivals.
“For many of these people and their families, the extension was a lifeline," Secretary of State Elaine Marshall said in a statement. "Sen. Burr has shown a disturbing lack of compassion for his fellow citizens. He is clearly out of touch with the people he represents.”
Chapel Hill attorney Ken Lewis said "Richard Burr showed once again that he is alarmingly out of touch with the interests of the people."
UPDATE: 1:53.... A spokesman for the N.C. Employment Security Commission said 6,500 of the 250,000 people collecting unemployment in the state would have seen their benefits expire without the extension.
UPDATE: 4:47... Cal Cunningham, the third major Democratic Senate candidate, also weighed in on Burr's vote. He said the vote "hurts North Carolinians who need emergency support in the toughest economy in generations. "