A test for the Senate GOP ‘moderates’

A TEST FOR THE SENATE GOP ‘MODERATES’…. It’s been pretty unpleasant watching the Senate lately. The DISCLOSE Act came up, and every single Senate Republican joined together to block the bill from even getting a vote. A package of incentives and tax breaks for small businesses looked to be in good shape, but every single Senate Republican joined together to knock that down, too. Twenty obviously qualified judicial nominees were brought forward, and the GOP blocked votes on all of them. Medical care for 9/11 victims came up, and Republicans prevented it from passing, too.

And these are just developments since Tuesday.

But early next week, the chamber will have another important opportunity to pass a critical piece of legislation. Annie Lowrey reported:

[Thursday night], Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) attached an amendment with funding to preserve teachers’ jobs and to provide much-needed Medicaid funding to states to a Federal Aviation Administration bill. The amendment is fully paid-for, and the FAA bill is just a vehicle. Reid filed cloture, meaning the Senate will vote on the provisions on Monday.

The amendment includes $10 billion in funding for teachers’ jobs and $16.1 billion in funding for the Federal Medical Assistance Percentages, or FMAP, program, which provides Medicaid funding to states. For offsets, it closes foreign tax credit loopholes to raise $9 billion; it also cuts $2 billion from Medicaid drug pricing, $8.4 billion in rescissions and $6.7 billion from the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, or SNAP, formerly known as food stamps.

There were no further details released at the time. At first blush, cutting food stamps to pay for Medicaid — both problems aid the most economically distressed Americans — and teachers’ jobs seems like a hard compromise to swallow, though it is unclear when the cuts will take effect and what portions will be cut.

Paying for this through food stamp offsets is rough, but it may not quite as bad as it appears. A source close to the talks told me this afternoon that the $6.7 billion from SNAP won’t go into effect until 2014 and the money comes from an increase that came through the Recovery Act. For Democrats, it seems like a reasonable trade-off — they get to save a lot of jobs and bolster Medicaid in the short term, while having three years to replenish the extra funds for food stamps.

But what about for Republicans? What kind of resistance should Democrats expect when this comes up on Monday night?

I don’t doubt they’ll come up with something, but Republicans — especially Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine — really don’t have any excuses here. This bill will help states, save jobs, and improve the economy … without adding a penny to the deficit.

On Monday, Snowe and Collins specifically endorsed a Medicaid funding extension, but said they didn’t want to vote for a bill that wasn’t paid for. Well, this bill is paid for. Collins said the job-saving state aid should phase down over time. Well, to accomodate her concerns, this bill does exactly that.

So, Republican moderates, what’s it going to be? Are you willing to take “yes” for an answer?