Political Animal


October 12, 2011 8:00 AM GOP kills jobs bill despite majority support

By Steve Benen

There were no doubts about the eventual outcome of the Senate fight over the American Jobs Act. Democrats would have needed at least seven Republicans who were willing to let members vote on the legislation, and the actual number was zero. The overall result was a foregone conclusion.

What mattered, though, was the margin and the roll call. And last night, the White House and Democratic senators reached their target.

President Obama’s $447 billion jobs plan foundered in the Senate on Tuesday night, as a unified Republican caucus and a pair of Democrats joined to deny the proposal the 60 votes needed to allow it to proceed to full consideration.

Obama will now use Republican opposition as part of a campaign to paint the GOP as obstructionists blocking his efforts to improve the economy while offering no alternative to create jobs.

After the vote, President Obama said in a statement, “Tonight, a majority of United States Senators voted to advance the American Jobs Act. But even though this bill contains the kind of proposals Republicans have supported in the past, their party obstructed the Senate from moving forward on this jobs bill.”

That’s true, and it’s exactly the point the White House wanted to be able to make. Yesterday, there were reports that several members of the Senate Democratic caucus — Ben Nelson, Joe Manchin, Joe Lieberman, Jim Webb, Jeanne Shaheen, and Jon Tester — would either vote with Republicans or fail to vote at all. The result would have been a political loss as well as a legislative one — Republicans would have been able to argue, accurately, that a majority of the Senate rejected the president’s jobs bill.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) deserves a lot of credit for making sure that didn’t happen. In the end, the American Jobs Act got 51 votes, and only two Dems — Nebraska’s Ben Nelson and Montana’s Jon Tester — sided with Republicans. (The official final tally was 50 to 49, but that’s only because Reid had to switch his vote for procedural reasons.)

Ultimately, this became a fight over which side would be able to make its argument, and to that extent, Dems got what they wanted. For all the talk in the media about last night representing a tough “loss” for the White House, it would seem that’s not the most significant realization this morning.

What matters most is that Senate Republicans, in the midst of a jobs crisis and intense public demand for congressional action, killed a credible jobs bill for no apparent reason. Most Americans support the American Jobs Act’s provisions; it enjoys strong support from economists; it includes ideas from both parties; and the CBO found it will even lower the deficit over the next decade.

And despite all of this, literally every Republican in the Senate — including the alleged “moderates” — not only rejected the popular jobs bill, they refused to even let the chamber vote on it at all. That should be the front-page story nationwide this morning.

So, what’s next? The jobs fight will continue, and Dems already have a plan for the next phase. More on that later this morning.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


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  • c u n d gulag on October 12, 2011 8:05 AM:

    Tester? Whaaaaaa happen?

    "Democrats" like Ben Nelson make me want to rethink my positions against enhanced interrogations, rendition, and torture.

    It's just that if they're happening to Ben Nelson, they don't sound so bad...

  • Mac on October 12, 2011 8:12 AM:

    Write your newspapers condemning GOP party before country, and send a letter of support if your senator voted to at least allow the Senate to discuss this bill.

    About Nelson, he has been wanting to jump over to the Republican side for a while. What a maroon.

  • berttheclock on October 12, 2011 8:13 AM:

    Tester was more of a Blue Dog before, but, he is running very scared of not being far enough to the right in the current atmosphere of Montana at the moment. He is not voting his convictions. He is voting his need to be re-elected and keep that pay check instead of heading back to farming under the Big Sky.

    Ben Nelson votes the way the Insurance Industry wishes.

  • berttheclock on October 12, 2011 8:24 AM:

    Nelson voted for Alito and voted against Kagen. 'nuf said.

  • RepublicanPointOfView on October 12, 2011 8:26 AM:

    My republican senator, Richard Lugar, needed to vote against his convictions again for the purpose of showing solidarity with Mitch McConnell and the teaparties.

    It is understandable that Senator Lugar is more worried about his reelection and his opposition by the Koch brothers Tea Party Express than he is about his country.

    Why should you dems get upset about Nelson and Tester behaving the same way?

    It is fully understandable to put reelection and party and big donor support ahead of the needs of the country!

  • j on October 12, 2011 8:45 AM:

    They have two missions, one is to keep unemployment at 9% so they can hit Obama with it at every turn.
    The next mission is to protect the super rich.
    The republicans have no jobs plan except to allow the Koch brothers to pollute more, and kill off a few more towns full of people as they are doing in Arkansas.

  • martin on October 12, 2011 9:00 AM:

    As predicted, I had to send off a pissed email to NPR who talked about the need for Democrats to get over a "threshold" and that they needed Democratic help to get over that "threshold." The F word (filibuster) was never mentioned, though it was mentioned in passing that a majority of the Senate approved moving forward, but no reason was given why that wasn't good enough.

    pointclass durision Mr Captcha adds.

  • martin on October 12, 2011 9:02 AM:

    Correction: They needed Republican help to get over the "threshold". The threshold, of course, being the Republicans.

  • Govt Skeptic on October 12, 2011 9:27 AM:

    "...Harry Reid (D-Nev.) deserves a lot of credit..."
    Umm, for what? For declaring victory on getting a majority vote which fails to reach the supermajority requirements? Whaaaa?
    No, he deserves no credit. They all knew what they were up against in early 2009, and he failed to change Senate rules to enable passing bills with a majority vote. He deserves all the blame for everything since that point.
    What a bunch of useless idiots.

  • chi res on October 12, 2011 9:31 AM:

    If only Obama had used the "bully pulpit"...

  • ElegantFowl on October 12, 2011 9:34 AM:

    The 2003 Stimulus Act passed the Senate with 51 votes.
    The 2011 Jobs Act failed the Senate with 51 votes.

    The news media has an obligation to explain the facts and background of this discrepancy. And Democrats need to explain why this bill isn't under reconciliation rules.

  • T2 on October 12, 2011 9:37 AM:

    at what point will the public, who support Obama's policies on taxing the rich and creating jobs, will start to think about changing those responsible for keeping things in a sad state?

  • zandru on October 12, 2011 9:47 AM:

    Thanks, martin!

    ... for hitting the news media (NPR) for their biased reporting. Over at the Daily Howler, Mr. Somerby is always griping that, when a slanted or dishonest report comes out, "the liberals sat on their hands". We can work the refs, too! And we have the added advantage of using factual arguments - with factual factse.

    Nelson & Tester

    I don't yet have much personal animosity against Jon Tester, but I'm severely tempted to write the Nebraska Democratic Party and the DCCC, with enclosed checks, beseeching them to spend whatever it takes to get Nelson replaced by an actual Democrat.

  • Trollop on October 12, 2011 10:01 AM:

    New "Democratic" plan, try to paint the GOP as obstructionists..
    Are the democrats taking their lithium again, simultaneously?

    Democrats, useless.. Their consolidation, cottage cheese.

    OWS must get larger!

  • Terp on October 12, 2011 10:07 AM:

    Jim Webb voted for cloture, but said he wouldn't vote for the final bill. He ran as a populist, but now he won't support any bill that raises taxes on the rich. What phony POS. Combined, Virginia must have the two worst Democratic senators in the country.

  • Schtick on October 12, 2011 10:20 AM:

    The whole problem is that "f word". The tealiban doesn't even have to say "filibuster it". They only need to say "f it" and the dems shimmy and shake, run around in circles screaming as they fill their pants while the tealiban sit on their corporate paid fat asses laughing.
    Sometimes that double-dare just has to be called.

    crapcha....sea twithir....she is?

  • ckelly on October 12, 2011 10:46 AM:

    The result would have been a political loss as well as a legislative one

    Oh yay, well at least it was a political "victory", most of the Dems look good or at least better than Repubs, and Obama has a cudgel to smack the opposing party with.

    Of course, everyone's still OUT OF A JOB!!.

  • ckelly on October 12, 2011 11:17 AM:

    That should be the front-page story nationwide this morning.

    But it won't be... this will..

    For all the talk in the media about last night representing a tough loss for the White House,

    I don't see the point here Steve. Yes, yes, a glorious "victory" for all those wonky politicos. We've got those nasty Republicans on the run. Bottom line is the media paints it as a loss and Obama and the Democrats look weak and feckless. Voters and the public see an ineffective government and no new jobs. How's that helping?

  • Brandon on October 12, 2011 2:31 PM:

    As soon as you referred to the jobs bill as credible, I stopped reading. Funny how Democrats didn't want to vote for it until they knew it wasn't going to pass. And as far as unfunded legislation goes, the Democrats racked up a generation's worth of that when they passed Obamacare. People like you are why I'll never vote Democrat again. Though, maybe it's because I have more self respect now.

  • chi res on October 12, 2011 3:48 PM:

    As soon as you referred to the jobs bill as credible, I stopped reading.

    There's your problem. You needs to gets youself a edjumacayshun. Self respect (sic) ain't enuf.

  • Schtick on October 12, 2011 4:12 PM:

    A generation's worth of unfunded legislation? Only a generation? That's nothing compared to Medicare part D and two wars that were unfunded and under-funded.

    crapcha....lst dthetho....first?

  • gaw_ernesto on October 13, 2011 4:02 AM:

    I am happy for it, this job bill was rejected in the Senate. Very selfish America, thinking of them only no others. The one that you passes about Yuan bill won't be materialize. Even my relatives have said, President Obama performance is worst than former President Bush.

  • Anny on October 13, 2011 9:26 AM:

    yet the people still support the government who does this, and blames the previous governemnt for it no less! it was fine to blame bush for 6 months, a year, maybe 18 months... but his term is almost over, this is all on the obama admin. I dont know how anyone can support him at this point

  • Don I on October 14, 2011 12:40 AM:

    Republicans may have voted against the American Jobs Act, but they didn't kill it. If the President can't even get the backing of all of his Democrat Senators, how is he to expect Republicans to back it? His jobs act is just another big stimulus/tax increase bill that promises to do nothing more than the same failed money handout programs he did during the first 2.5 years he's been in office.

    Why has Harry Reid been sitting on the large number of bills passed by the House Republicans, and passed on to the Senate, for well over a year, without allowing them to be discussed or voted on? Harry Reid is the one who has been the obstructionist by sitting on those Republicans bills, aimed at encouraging new businesses to start, and current businesses to create new jobs, .. or bring jobs they outsourced back to America.

  • roy frier on October 21, 2011 6:21 PM:

    seems like we know who owns the oil co the republicans let their millionaire buddies support them vote to impeach for abstaining from voting in senate