[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/05/19/art.bunning0519.gi.jpg caption=" Sen. Jim Bunning’s decision to block a bill extending unemployment benefits has drawn criticism from candidates looking to replace the Republican in the Senate."](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:
The Senate adjourned last week without approving extensions of cash and health insurance benefits for the unemployed after Bunning blocked the measure by insisting that Congress first pay for the $10 billion package. The extension needed unanimous consent to pass because Democrats have labeled it an emergency spending measure.
Bunning has said he simply doesn't want to add to the deficit while Democrats argue that, because it is an emergency measure, the bill 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 were no longer able to apply for federal unemployment benefits or the COBRA health insurance subsidy as of Monday.