Bunning: Missed Health Vote for ‘Family Commitments’
WASHINGTON - Republican Sen. Jim Bunning of Kentucky was the only senator to miss the Senate's historic Christmas Eve vote on health care reform legislation.
"The senator had family commitments," Bunning spokesman Mike Reynard said in an e-mail.
The 60-39 party-line vote to pass the landmark bill was one of 21 in December - nearly half of all Senate floor votes for the month - that the retiring senator has skipped.
Bunning missed votes on a number of amendments and procedural moves related to the health care bill, which he opposed. He also missed a vote on passage of the fiscal 2010 defense spending bill, which included a number of local projects he had sponsored.
Bunning, who is 78, announced in July he won't seek a third term in 2010 after months of insisting the opposite.
His absence from the health care vote, considered one of the most important Senate votes in decades, caps a year of unusual incidents involving the senator.
In January, he didn't show up for several votes even while saying he planned to run for re-election. Bunning said he missed those votes because he was fulfilling "a family commitment six months ago to do certain things, and I'm doing them."
"I have another life besides the Senate," Bunning said, declining to provide details.
He subsequently went public with a feud he was having with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. Bunning claimed McConnell was pressuring him to step aside.
Bunning also gave a speech in which he predicted the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who has battled cancer. The senator later apologized. He also swore at a reporter who asked him about polling numbers, apologizing for that as well.
He also told a group of lobbyists he was contemplating quitting the Senate so Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear could appoint a replacement, sources told The Courier-Journal. Bunning denied having said that.