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Page last updated at 06:37 GMT, Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Single US senator freezes unemployment payment

By Mark Mardell
BBC North America Editor

Sen Jim Bunning
No-one has supported Sen Bunning so far

Some 2,000 construction workers building road projects across the US have been sent home after a senator blocked a bill to extend payments.

Republican Jim Bunning single-handedly blocked the legislation, saying it would add to the deficit.

He used procedural tactics to delay the bill and a new vote will now have to be taken, possibly next week.

Doctors and the unemployed may also be affected by failure of a bill to extend payments for government projects.

Political games

Former baseball star Sen Jim Bunning, 78, from Kentucky, has repeatedly and single-handedly blocked a $10bn bill which would have extended benefit payments into March because he says he does not want to add to America's ballooning deficit, and the Democrats have not explained how they are going to pay for it.

MARDELL'S AMERICA
Mark Mardell
Democrats are delighted if people get the impression Republicans are out to wreck plays to help the jobless

Work has stopped on projects as varied as a major bridge connecting Virginia and Washington DC, a roundabout in the Virgin Islands and the entrance to a national park in California because of the objections of just one senator.

Funding for doctors working on programmes for the poor, unemployment benefit for a million people and payment for cable television in the countryside will also be affected.

Mr Bunning's Republican colleagues may agree with his general sentiment but no-one has publicly supported the senator who is retiring in November.

Democrats have condemned him for hurting ordinary Americans but know it adds to their argument that gridlock in Washington is the fault of Republicans playing political games, almost gleefully.

The Senate is likely to find a way around Mr Bunning, but it will take time.



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