By Mark Memmott
On the floor of the Senate, Republican Jim Bunning of Kentucky just defended the position he's taken that has delayed an extension of jobless benefits for the nation's unemployed and has forced the furlough of about 2,000 federal workers.
Saying that he has blocked votes on the legislation to underscore his opposition to the ongoing growth in federal debt, Bunning read a letter from "Robert in Louisville," who told the senator that even though he hasn't been working regularly in the past two years he supports what Bunning is doing.
"This country is sooner or later going to implode because of the massive amount of debt run up over the past 40 or 50 years," Robert wrote, according to Bunning.
"Why now?" Bunning said he's been asked, regarding his objection to the legislation. "Why not now?"
And, he added, if the Democratic majority and many Republicans want to force action on the legislation, they should use the Senate rules to override his objection.
Update at 2:45 p.m. ET. The Associated Press, in its latest story on what's happening, adds this perspective about Bunning's position:
"Bunning said again Tuesday that he opposed the extension because it would add $10 billion to the budget deficit, and he attacked Democrats for abandoning promises to pay for legislation instead of contributing to a budget deficits projected to hit almost $1.6 trillion this year. Bunning proposes to pay for the extension with unspent money from last year's massive economic recovery package, but (Senate Majority Leader Harry) Reid, D-Nev., objected." (Correction: We had a typo earlier, identifying Reid as R-Nev.)
Update at 2:15 p.m. ET. NPR's David Welna reports for the network's newcast about Republican Sen. Susan Collins' attempt to break the logjam caused by by Bunning. "Until today," David says, "only Senate Democrats had tried bringing up a bill passed last week by the House that would extend the expired benefits." You can hear short clips of Collins and Bunning in David's report: