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.