A GAMBLE REPUBLICANS WERE WILLING TO TAKE…. Political parties are traditionally motivated by fear of public revulsion. To take steps that make the party’s members look like monsters is rarely a good idea.

So it was interesting this week to see congressional Republicans overwhelmingly reject the Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, which would pay health care costs for 9/11 rescue workers, sickened after exposure to the toxic smoke and debris. In the House, more than 90% of GOP lawmakers opposed the bill. In the Senate, a unanimous Republican caucus found the bill so offensive, they wouldn’t even give it an up-or-down vote.

Fear of appearing sociopathic probably should have led to a few more Republican votes. After all, it’s not exactly a compelling message to take to the electorate: we’ll fight tooth and nail for tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires, but we’ll also reject health care costs for 9/11 rescue workers.

And why would Republicans take a risk like this, especially over legislation that was both affordable and paid for? Because they’re probably confident most Americans won’t hear a word about this.

The fact that the 9/-11-related legislation was defeated was news. Period. The fact that it was defeated as part of the larger Republican strategy to tie the Senate in knots made yesterday’s vote even more newsworthy.

But not at ABC, CBS or NBC. Last night, all three evening newscasts failed to report on the fact that Republicans had voted down a previously bipartisan bill designed to provide medical coverage for Sept. 11 emergency workers. At the major networks, that development was not considered newsworthy.

That’s pretty remarkable. But the larger point here is that Republicans are now practicing an unprecedented brand of obstructionism and they’re doing without having to pay much of a political price. Why? Because the press is giving them a pass.

I suppose one could argue that major media outlets might have given this more coverage if Democrats were more effective at raising a fuss. Perhaps. But news organizations should be able to recognize important developments on their own, whether partisans tell them what’s newsworthy or not.

Regardless, there’s a larger truth here — Republicans know the Noise Machine lets votes like these slip under the radar, and without scrutiny, the GOP, already lacking in shame, feels comfortable taking steps that should be scandalous, but aren’t.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.