BUNNING GETS BY WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM HIS FRIENDS…. Sen. Jim Bunning’s (R-Ky.) temper tantrum has caused quite a mess from coast to coast. Tens of thousands of unemployed workers are getting screwed, as are thousands of furloughed highway workers, small businesses, and medical professionals. Bunning’s rationale isn’t even coherent, but his callous crusade continues.

It’s been interesting, though, to see Bunning’s Republican colleagues respond to the tantrum. The underlying measure was poised to be approved unanimously — that is, without GOP objection — but notice that Senate Republicans haven’t made any real efforts to cut Bunning’s lunacy short. Granted, the GOP leadership may have limited influence over the Kentucky senator — the borderline-unstable member is retiring later this year — but that doesn’t explain the support Republicans are offering.

Corker Defended Bunning, Said Senate Was “Stooping To A Low Level.” On the Senate floor, Senator Corker defended Senator Bunning and said, “I believe we are stooping to a low level. The Senator from Kentucky and I agree on a lot and we disagree on a lot, and I am not here at this moment to debate the merits of either side. What I am saying is this is not the way the Senate functions. Everybody in the country now knows that the Senator from Kentucky has a hold on this bill. That is something that is honored. Not a hold on the bill, but he is objecting to unanimous consent, and that is something that we honor in this body.” [Congressional Record, 2/25/10]

Sessions Defended Bunning, Said He’s Blocking Unemployment Benefits “As A Matter Of Principle.” On the Senate floor, Senator Sessions defending Senator Bunning and said, “I think the Senator from Kentucky is speaking on behalf of the conscience of a lot of Americans, a majority of Americans, if they heard this debate. He is doing it as a matter of principle. I know he has no desire to see people not receive unemployment compensation. He is willing to support that. He simply is saying that enough is enough.” [Congressional Record, 2/25/10]

Sessions Again Defended Bunning, Said He Respects Bunning’s “Courage.” Just yesterday, Senator Sessions again defended Senator Bunning. Sessions spoke about Bunning’s actions on the Senate floor and said, “I respect him for the courage he showed. [Congressional Record, 3/1/10]

Cornyn Admires Bunning’s “Courage.” Senator Cornyn took to the Senate floor, suggested that Senators Bunning and Corker were not afforded the procedural opportunity to explain the GOP filibuster of unemployment benefits and said, “I understand that Senator Durbin retained the floor for the most part and yielded for questions, but basically the procedure denied Senator Bunning and Senator Corker, who I know also weighed in, an opportunity to explain precisely what was going on…. I want to say I admire the courage of the junior Senator from Kentucky, Mr. Bunning.” [Congressional Record, 2/26/10]

Kyl Defended Bunning, Said He “Made A Good Point.” “Bunning got support from Senate Republican Whip Jon Kyl, who defended his colleagues insistence of paying for the legislation with unused stimulus funds. ‘You can’t say that everything we do around here needs to be offset,’ said Kyl, ‘and then waive the pay go legislation every time you want to do it.’ ‘My colleague from Kentucky made a good point.’” [Politico, 3/1/10]

“Bunning’s blockade” is wreaking havoc, and leading Republicans aren’t denouncing him — they’re encouraging him.

This is the modern Republican Party? In an election year?

For his part, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R), Bunning’s fellow Kentuckian, was asked repeatedly this morning whether Bunning’s tantrum was defensible. McConnell refused to answer.

No “Profile in Courage” award for you, Mitch.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.