McCAIN AND THE GOP….By now, everybody knows that the Senate version of the economic stimulus bill failed to overcome a Republican filibuster yesterday. You need 60 votes for that, and the final tally was 59-40. (Harry Reid changed his vote at the end for parliamentary reasons, so the reported tally was 58-41)

Part of story here is that John McCain, alone among senators, failed to show up to vote, and his vote could have made the difference. Mr. Straight Talk apparently didn’t want to risk conservative backlash by voting in favor of moving forward, but also didn’t want to risk his beloved independent cred by joining a party line vote against it. So he stayed home. It was a real profile in courage.

Mocking McCain’s pretensions is always worthwhile, but there’s a much bigger point to make too. The differences between the Senate bill and the original House/Bush bill were pretty modest. The Senate bill changed the distribution of the tax breaks slightly, extended unemployment benefits a few weeks, and offered heating aid for the poor, along with a few goodies specifically designed to appeal to Republicans. The grand total of the changes amounted to $44 billion over two years. This is not a huge amount of money.

Now, it’s obvious that everyone believes a stimulus bill of some kind is a good idea (the House bill passed nearly unanimously), so it’s not as if anyone voted against the Senate version because they believe it’s a fundamentally flawed concept. And since the last month’s worth of economic news has been uniformly bad, no one who believes in stimulus has any real reason to balk at fattening up the package a bit. This wasn’t a principled stand about letting the economy work things out on its own.

But what happened? Republicans filibustered the larger bill and then sustained the filibuster on virtually a party line vote. Why? Because it had a few billion dollars of spending targeted at Democratic priorities. There’s nothing more to it.

The moral of the story is this: Republicans have no intention of ever working with Democrats on anything remotely like a bipartisan basis. Even on something as trivial as this, they filibustered and won. They will do the same thing next year no matter who’s president. They will do it on every single bill, no matter how minor. They will never stop obstructing. Period. Presidential hopefuls, take note.