The New Yorker this week has a very interesting article by George Packer about the U.S. Senate. Both of Kentucky’s senators get several mentions, and Jim Bunning‘s name appears eight times. The references are sometimes meant humorously, but they illustrate Bunning’s relationship to his colleagues and his place in the deliberative body.

Observed from the press gallery, the senators in their confined space began to resemble zoo animals—Levin a shambling brown bear, John Thune a loping gazelle, Jim Bunning a maddened grizzly.

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It became clear which senators were loners (Russ Feingold, Daniel Akaka) and which were social (Blanche Lincoln, Lindsey Graham); which senators were important (Dick Durbin, Jon Kyl) and which were ignored (Bayh, Bunning).

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Twenty-three amendments had been voted down, and the Republicans were proposing a fresh batch. “Can we get some order?” Bunning growled, before he introduced a proposal to let senior citizens opt out of parts of Medicare. It was the only amendment that any Republicans joined the Democrats to defeat.

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During one recent Republican lunch, Jim Bunning referred to Harry Reid as an idiot.

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Sarah Binder, a congressional scholar at George Washington University, said, “To have a chamber that rules by unanimous consent—it’s nutty! Especially when you’ve got Jim Bunning to please.”

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Later that month, Bunning spent several days and a late night on the Senate floor, filibustering to prevent benefits from being paid to millions of unemployed Americans. When Merkley tried to reason with him, Bunning responded, “Tough shit.” (Eventually, Republicans persuaded Bunning to stop.)