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In February, when unpredictable Sen. Jim Bunning single-handedly stalled extensions of unemployment benefits for several days, his Republican colleagues quickly abandoned him, worried that the GOP would be cast as the party against helping people who are out of work.
Last month, as jobless benefits were again to set to expire, Bunning (Ky.) still objected to funding them in a way that would increase the deficit. But this time, nearly every Republican in the Senate joined him, leading to a month-long impasse in which more than 2 million people briefly lost their benefits. When the extension finally passed last week, only two Republicans backed the $34 billion unemployment measure, compared with 21 who had voted with Democrats in March.