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Sen. Sherrod Brown, Ohio Democrat, said Mr. Bunning is “just responding to Republican calls to obstruct.”

“They’ve created an environment in the last year that anyway you can obstruct, that’s a good thing,” he said.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky’s other senator, appeared to just wish the entire issue would go away. At his weekly press briefing he repeatedly ducked reporters’ questions about Mr. Bunning’s effort, and has ignored the matter on the Senate floor, instead attacking Democrats’ health care plans.

But Sen. Jim DeMint, South Carolina Republican, praised Mr. Bunning for a “courageous stand” and said the point is to try to get the Senate to make tough decisions about priorities and spending.

“This is not emergency spending. It was entirely predictable,” he said.

Jennifer Haberkorn contributed to this report.