2 Mar 2010

US senator blocks unemployment benefits

10:41 pm on 2 March 2010

The action of a single Senator in the United States has brought to a sudden halt unemployment benefits for hundreds of thousands of people and stopped major road construction.

Republican Jim Bunning has single-handedly blocked the legislation on the grounds it will add to the deficit, the BBC reports.

Work has stopped on projects including a major bridge connecting Virginia and Washington DC, a roundabout in the Virgin Islands and the entrance to a national park in California.

Mr Bunning, a 78-year-old former baseball star, has repeatedly blocked a $US10 billion bill which would have extended benefit payments into March.

The senator from Kentucky 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.

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

Mr Bunning's Republican colleagues may agree with his general drift, but none of them have publicly supported him, the BBC reports.

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