THE EFFECTS OF THE BUNNING TANTRUM…. This is not a victimless crime.

The Department of Transportation furloughed nearly 2,000 employees without pay Monday as the government began to feel the impact of Republican Sen. Jim Bunning’s one-man blockage of legislation that would keep a host of federal programs operating.

Bunning’s “hold” also affects jobless benefits for thousands of unemployed workers, rural television customers, doctors receiving Medicare payments and others. […]

“As American families are struggling in tough economic times, I am keenly disappointed that political games are putting a stop to important construction projects around the country,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement. “This means that construction workers will be sent home from job sites because federal inspectors must be furloughed.”

According to research from the National Employment Law Project, nearly 1.2 million unemployed workers are poised to lose jobless benefits, and with highway projects stopped, as many as 90,000 jobs may be lost.

The White House noted in circulated talking points last night, “There’s nothing wrong with someone taking a principled stand for something they believe in, but Senator Bunning voted to extend these same benefits in 2008. And over the past decade, unemployment insurance extensions have been passed as emergency measures under Republican and Democratic Congresses alike. So what we’re seeing right now is politics at its worst. It’s a perfect example of why so many Americans are fed up with Washington.”

That a couple of Bunning’s far-right Senate allies — Sens. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) — have now “publicly come to the defense” of Bunning just as his tantrum is wreaking havoc nationwide, reinforces just how far gone today’s GOP really is.

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.