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Robert Gibbs calls Senator Jim Bunning irrational

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Susan Walsh/AP/File

(Read caption) On Tuesday, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs tore into Sen. Jim Bunning, shown here in a July 2009 photo. The Kentucky Republican has blocked an extension of unemployment benefits, prompting Gibbs to label him 'irrational.'

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White House spokesman Robert Gibbs on Tuesday stepped up the war of words that the Obama administration has been directing at Sen. Jim Bunning (R) of Kentucky, saying at a morning meeting with reporters, “I don’t know how you negotiate with the irrational.”

Since this past Thursday, Senator Bunning, who is not running for reelection, has been blocking an extension of unemployment and health benefits for jobless workers. He did it again Tuesday morning, objecting to a request by fellow a Republican, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, to extend the expired benefits for 30 days.

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Mr. Gibbs has acknowledged trying to shame Bunning to get him to change his course. “Sometimes even using their names doesn’t create the shame you would think it would,” Gibbs said Monday.

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Bunning’s argument is that the measure should be paid for because it would add to the current year’s massive federal budget deficit. He has proposed using unspent funds from last year’s $787 billion stimulus package, but Democrats objected.

In the view of Democrats, Bunning is making the Republican Party look like it does not care for the unemployed, an unhelpful bit of political theater in an election year.

Speaking to reporters in his West Wing office Tuesday morning, Gibbs said, “What it simply is going to mean is ... more people are simply going to need the help.” He added, “I and others fail to understand” Bunning’s position.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.