The proposal on the table seemed like a no-brainer. The public sector has been hemorrhaging jobs, dragging down the economy, and undermining the quality of public services. The White House and congressional Democrats came up with a pretty straightforward solution: direct $35 billion to states in order to protect/create 400,000 jobs for school teachers, police officers, and firefighters.

Sensitive to budget constraints, Dems agreed the bill shouldn’t increase the deficit at all, so they agreed to finance the plan with a 0.5% surtax that would only affect millionaires and billionaires — and even that wouldn’t kick in until 2013.

The public is demanding Washington act on the jobs crisis, and this proposal enjoyed very strong support from the American mainstream. A CNN poll released this week found that 75% of the public — and 63% of self-identified Republican voters — endorsed this jobs proposal, and 76% agreed with the financing plan.

In these divisive times, 75% of Americans don’t agree on much, but they all wanted Congress to pass this bill. It’s tempting to think elected officials would be committing political suicide by fighting to kill a popular jobs plan during a jobs crisis. And yet, here we are.

For the second time in 10 days, the Senate on Thursday rejected Democratic efforts to take up a jobs bill championed by President Obama.

The vote to advance the bill was 50 to 50. Democrats needed 60 votes to overcome a Republican filibuster.

Keep in mind, the GOP’s filibuster last night was on the motion to proceed — they blocked the Senate’s ability to even discuss the jobs bill.

How many Republicans broke ranks and agreed that the proposal deserved an up-or-down vote? Zero. Not even one alleged “moderate” mustered the courage to give a wildly popular jobs bill a chance to get a vote.

Three conservative members of the Democratic caucus — Ben Nelson, Joe Lieberman, and Mark Pryor — sided with Republicans.

The outcome didn’t come as a surprise, which is probably why it isn’t a bigger story in the media, but that shouldn’t make the developments any less scandalous. Do conservative senators not realize there’s a jobs crisis in America? Or is it more likely they’re aware of the problem and simply prefer not to act?

I keep thinking about something Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) said this week, while she was lecturing Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner about the importance of improving the economy. “Something’s gone terribly wrong, and what I hear over and over again is that there is no tempo, a tempo of urgency,” she said. “I don’t know who you’re talking to … but you need to talk to the average person. Rome is burning.”

That was on Tuesday. Just 48 hours later, Snowe joined the right in blocking a popular jobs bill.

Something has gone terribly wrong. There is no “tempo of urgency.” I don’t know who Republicans are talking to, but they need to talk to the average person and explain why they care more about preventing a tiny tax increase on the wealthiest of the wealthy — an extra half a penny on the dollar for millionaires and billionaires — than hundreds of thousands of jobs for teachers and first responders.

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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.