The ‘beginning of a new day’?

THE ‘BEGINNING OF A NEW DAY’?…. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) scheduled a vote for yesterday afternoon to end a Republican filibuster of a scaled-down jobs bill, and within a couple of hours of the vote, no one knew how it was going to turn out. In fact, there had already been some second-guessing about Reid’s strategy.

But when it came time to vote on ending the GOP’s obstruction of the legislation, things turned out better than expected.

Five Republican senators broke ranks with their party on Monday to advance a $15 billion job-creation measure put forward by Democrats, a rare bipartisan breakthrough after months in which Republicans had held together to a remarkable degree in an effort to thwart President Obama’s agenda.

The 62-to-30 vote — two more yeses than the minimum required to get past a procedural roadblock — cleared the way for the Senate to vote Wednesday to approve the measure, which Democrats said would create tens of thousands of new jobs at a time when the unemployment rate is hovering near double digits and is expected to remain high for years to come.

The roll-call is online. A total of five Republican senators — Scott Brown (Mass.), Kit Bond (Mo.), Susan Collins (Maine), Olympia Snowe (Maine), and George Voinovich (Ohio) — broke ranks and agreed to let the Senate vote up or down on the legislation. Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) was the only Democrat to side with Republicans and try to block consideration of the jobs bill.

Given the results, spirits were high in the chamber last night. Before the vote, Reid implored Senate Republicans to demonstrate that they’re “serious about legislating.” After the vote, he told his colleagues, “I hope this is the beginning of a new day in the Senate.”

I hope so, too. But how one interprets last night’s developments depends on whether one is a glass-half-full kind of person.

On the one hand, we saw five Republicans — far more than usual — break ranks and end a ridiculous filibuster, making it possible for the Senate to approve a jobs bill in bipartisan fashion. On the other hand, only five GOP senators were willing to let the Senate vote on a modest, scaled-back jobs bill in the midst of an unemployment crisis, despite the fact that Republicans actually like what’s in the bill.

It’s either a rare and encouraging breakthrough, or a relief that comes from the soft bigotry of low expectations.

As for the measure itself, it’s a very limited jobs bill, the bulk of which is a payroll-tax exemption for companies who hire workers this year. It also features a $1,000 tax credit for employers who keep new workers on the job for at least a year, a provision to allow businesses to write off some capital investments, and a one-year reauthorization of the Highway Trust Fund.

If this strikes you as too modest an approach to make much of a difference, you have plenty of company. That said, the Democratic leadership re-emphasized yesterday that this will be the first of several bills related to job creation to be considered in the near future.