The Department of Transportation furloughed 2,000 workers without pay today, thanks to a filibuster from Republican Sen. Jim Bunning. Democrat and Republican leaders had agreed to pass a one-month extension of several standard federal programs, such as unemployment benefits, by unanimous consent, a process that makes voting unnecessary. Bunning’s objection blocked the bill, causing all the programs to expire last night.
The bill included funding for both state and federal transportation programs, so Bunning’s objection is blocking $190 million a day in state reimbursements and forcing the furloughs. Work on construction sites around the country will halt today. The filibuster has also abruptly cut unemployment benefits for roughly 400,000 Americans. “The simple fact of the matter is that this is an emergency situation,” says Dick Durbin, “and should be treated as such.”