(CNN) - Sen. Jim Bunning's decision to block a bill extending unemployment benefits has become a political lightning rod among the four major candidates who are seeking to fill the outgoing Kentucky Republican's Senate seat.
Jack Conway and Daniel Mongiardo, the two Democrats vying for their party's nomination to replace Bunning, have condemned Bunning's actions as they seek to resonate with the 120,000 Kentuckians who currently receive unemployment benefits. Conway, the state's attorney general, has called Bunning's block "outrageous" and posted a petition to register disapproval with the move on his Web site.
Mongiardo - the current lieutenant governor - is going one step further, holding rallies Tuesday outside of Bunning's offices in Louisville and Lexington. Kim Geveden, Mongiardo's communications director, told CNN the campaign had invited Conway to attend the rallies, though Conway declined. Conway is currently in Washington, DC for official business, according to a spokeswoman.
It's a different story on the Republican side, where the two candidates battling for the party's Senate nomination are heralding Bunning's move as a prudent act of conservatism. Rand Paul, a doctor and son of Texas Rep. Ron Paul called attacks on Bunning "unfair" and is holding his own rally in support of Bunning in front of the senator's Lexington office at 3 p.m. ET. Trey Grayson, Kentucky's secretary of state, who's battling Paul, has also applauded Bunning's move.
Video of protesters in Louisville, Kentucky after the jump:
(CNN) - White House aides are saying there's a "strong possibility" President Obama will take on Sen. Jim Bunning during the president's 1230 p.m. ET economic remarks at Savannah Technical College.
The president's staff has already been making political hay out of Bunning's filibuster against extending unemployment benefits.
"This is an emergency situation," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters Tuesday morning. "Hundreds of thousands have been left in the lurch....I don't know how you negotiate the irrational."
12:20 p.m. ET UPDATE: A White House official tells CNN the president and his aides decided at the last minute to drop any reference to Sen. Bunning in his economic remarks to avoid getting mixed up in the "Senate debate du jour" today.
The official said the White House wants the president's remarks to focus instead "on the employment picture in Georgia" and the nation in general, and will let Gibbs' pushback on Bunning stand on its own.
Washington (CNN) - An angry Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Kentucky, refused to answer questions from CNN and ABC News Monday afternoon about his decision to block a bill that would extend unemployment benefits to millions of jobless Americans. An ABC News producer who was there says Bunning gave him the middle finger in response to a question.
CNN's Dana Bash and a CNN camera crew tried to get Bunning to comment more extensively on the controversy on Monday. But the senator "got very angry," she said.
"Excuse me," the agitated senator told Bash while entering a Senate elevator. "I need to get to the (Senate) floor."
Moments earlier, and ABC News reporter and crew also attempted to question Bunning as he was getting on the Senate elevator.
A posting on the ABC News website details the exchange: "Excuse me! This is a Senator's only elevator!" Bunning responded as he was asked a question by ABC's Jonathan Karl.
"Excuse me!" Bunning yelled. "I've got to go to the floor!"
ABC News producer Z. Bryon Wolf spotted Bunning as he exited his office. When Wolf asked Bunning to stay and talk to cameras, Wolf says Bunning walked away and shot his middle finger over his head.
CNN reached out to Bunning’s office for comment. A spokesman for the senator said "I don't have any comment," when asked about the obscene gesture.
Washington (CNN) - Top Democrats tore into one of their Republican counterparts Monday for blocking an extension of unemployment benefits that would provide assistance to millions of jobless Americans.
The Senate adjourned last week without approving extensions of cash and health insurance benefits for the unemployed after Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Kentucky, blocked the measure by insisting that Congress first pay for the $10 billion package.
Bunning, who is retiring at the end of this year, said he doesn't oppose extending the programs - he just doesn't want to add to the deficit. Democrats claim the bill is an emergency measure that should not be subject to new rules requiring that legislation not expand the deficit.
As a result of the Senate's inaction, many jobless people starting Monday were no longer able to apply for federal unemployment benefits or the COBRA health insurance subsidy.
"The irony of all this is we're out trying to fill that (financial) hole created by the (recession) which cost 8 million people" their jobs, Vice President Joe Biden said. "At a time when so many families are in so much pain we shouldn't be shutting the few valves of relief. ... We should be opening that spigot a little wider not shutting it down."
New York (CNNMoney.com) - Department of Transportation secretary Ray LaHood on Monday blamed a senator's filibuster for furloughing thousands of federal employees and threatening state jobs while shutting down highway construction projects nationwide.
"As American families are struggling in tough economic times, I am keenly disappointed that political games are putting a stop to important construction projects around the country," wrote LaHood, in a press release. "This means that construction workers will be sent home from job sites because federal inspectors must be furloughed."
LaHood was referring to the one-man filibuster of Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky., who has blocked a bill that would, among other things, provide a short-term extension of the Highway Trust Fund, which is a federal fund set up to pay for transportation projects around the country.
Bunning spokesman Mike Reynard did not speak directly about the job disruptions cited by LaHood, when asked about it by CNNMoney.com, but he reiterated Bunning's belief that if 100 senators support the bill, they should come up with the $10 billion to fund it on a pay-as-you-go basis.
"Sen. Bunning supports this bill," said Reynard. "He believes it's essential, and he believes we should pass it. But he believes we should pay for it. "
Washington (CNN) - The Senate adjourned Friday without approving extensions of cash and health insurance benefits for the unemployed after a lone senator blocked swift passage due to his insistence that Congress first pay for the $10 billion package.
Retiring Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Kentucky, led a spirited Senate debate with Democrats over the issue - at one time cursing at another senator on the floor. Bunning said he doesn't oppose extending the programs - he just doesn't want to add to the deficit.
According to two Democratic aides on the Senate floor Thursday night, Bunning muttered "tough s-" as Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon, criticized Bunning's stance on the package.
An aide to Merkley said the senator didn't hear the remark. A spokesman for Bunning said he was aware of the reports about the senator's language but didn't have a comment.
More on CNNMoney.com: Jobless benefits start ending Sunday
(CNN) - Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Kentucky, announced Monday he would not run for re-election in 2010, blaming GOP leaders for his campaign's struggle to gain traction and its poor fundraising performance over the last year.
"To win a general election, a candidate has to be able to raise millions of dollars to get the message out to voters," Bunning said in a statement. "Over the past year, some of the leaders of the Republican Party in the Senate have done everything in their power to dry up my fundraising."
"The simple fact is that I have not raised the funds necessary to run an effective campaign for the U.S. Senate," Bunning continued. "For this reason, I will not be a candidate for re-election in 2010."
The 77-year-old Hall of Fame pitcher has openly butted heads with his party's leadership since initially declaring earlier this year his intention to seek a third Senate term. Both Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and the National Republican Senatorial Committee had been tepid on a re-election bid for Bunning, who narrowly escaped defeat in 2004 and was likely to face stiff competition next year.
In conference calls with members of the media earlier this year, Bunning called McConnell a "control freak" and pledged to sue the National Republican Senatorial Committee if they supported another Republican candidate.
Bunning was also quick to hit back at McConnell earlier this year when the Republican leader suggested Bunning's age could be a factor in his re-election bid.
"Do you know Arlen Specter will be 80, has had four bouts with cancer and he still wants to run for the U.S. Senate?" Bunning told reporters last May. "And I'm being criticized at 77 and healthy for wanting to run for the U.S. Senate by certain leadership people in my party. Give me a break."
(CNN) - Kentucky Sen. Jim Bunning is maintaining his reputation for holding the most entertaining conference calls in Congress, telling reporters listening in to his latest teleconference Tuesday that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is a "control freak."
"McConnell is leading the ship, but he is leading it in the wrong direction," Bunning said of his fellow Kentucky senator, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal. "If Mitch McConnell doesn't endorse me, it could be the best thing that ever happened to me in Kentucky."
The embattled Bunning has openly butted heads with his party's leadership since declaring earlier this year his intention to seek a third Senate term. Both McConnell and the National Republican Senatorial Committee have been tepid on a reelection bid for Bunning, who narrowly escaped defeat in 2004 and is likely to face the same Democratic opponent next year.
In previous conference calls, Bunning has pledged to sue the NRSC if they support another Republican candidate, and that he doesn't "believe anything [NRSC Chairman] John Cornyn says."
Bunning, 77, has also hit back at reported statements from McConnell that the former baseball star is too old to seek another Senate term.
"Do you know Arlen Specter will be 80, has had four bouts with cancer and he still wants to run for the U.S. Senate?" Bunning told reporters on the call earlier this month. "And I'm being criticized at 77 and healthy for wanting to run for the U.S. Senate by certain leadership people in my party. Give me a break."
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Dr. Rand Paul, the son of former Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul, announced Thursday night that he is forming an exploratory committee to to challenge Kentucky Sen. Jim Bunning in a Republican primary.
Paul made the announcement Thursday night on MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Show.
Paul had said previously that he would not throw his hat in the ring if Bunning decided to run for reelection. Bunning - seen as one of the weakest Republicans in the 2010 race - has said that he will run again, but Paul said he doesn't necessarily trust that the two-term Kentucky senator will follow through.
"I think the problem is that every time a reporter asks Jim Bunning, are you running, their follow up question is, Jim, are you really running," Paul said. He said Bunning has done some "unusual things" and said, "What I hate to see is a politician who might go all the way up to the deadline and pull their papers out an hour before and then you have one candidate and there's no real primary."
Since his announcement, Paul said he has raised over $12,000, according to his campaign Web site. Paul's conservative views are very similar to those of his father, who garnered a major grassroots following during his run for president last year.