In the end, it’s important to remember that Congress exists, and that not all Democrats are the kind of Democrat that shares progressive values and goals.
Every time something like this happens, I’m reminded of all the angry liberals who complain that President Obama hasn’t pursued more progressive policies on healthcare, or civilian trials for terrorists, or closing Gitmo, etc. Recall, always, that people like John Tester and Ben Nelson (and Joe Lieberman and Jim Webb and Joe Manchin) are in the Senate, and they are Democrats, too. Which means that it isn’t just Republicans who stand in the way of the kind of progress progressives (and at this point, a strong majority of all Americans) crave.
Senate Democrats lost a procedural hurdle on President Obama’s jobs bill Thursday night, scuttling any progress on passage of the entire package.
As of early evening, Senate Democrats were still holding the vote open for Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), who had a scheduling conflict and was still in flight when the vote began. With Shaheen’s yes vote, Senate Democrats could show a majority of support, 51 votes, for the President’s $447m plan to spur economic growth.
As expected though, no Republicans crossed the aisle to vote in favor of shutting down a GOP filibuster of the bill (Democrats would have needed at least seven defecting GOPers to reach the 60-vote threshold to shut down debate and move for a vote on the bill), essentially stopping the full jobs package dead in its tracks.
“We knew they were going to block the bill,” Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said after the most of the votes were taken, “but… this will be an ongoing fight.”
The largely symbolic vote demonstrated the deep GOP opposition to the bill, but all day political observers expected it to put Democratic divisions over the President’s approach to bolstering the economy into sharp relief as well. In the end, two Democratic senators, Sens. Ben Nelson (D-NE) and Jon Tester (D-MT) voted with Republicans to continue the filibuster.
“The things I support in this bill are outweighed by the things I can’t support,” Tester told reporters afterward.
“It’s less about what the spending’s about,” Nelson said. “[The] point is, it’s raising taxes to engage in more spending in Washington. That’s not what people back home want. They want to see the cuts, and we’re not seeing any cuts.”
Rep. Joe Manchin (D-WV) earlier had signaled he might vote against the cloture vote, but in the end he voted with Democrats, although he said he still doesn’t support the underlying bill. Thursday afternoon Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) said he was of the same mind, to vote in favor of the procedural vote but against the bill itself because he opposed the plans to pay for it with tax increases on the wealthy instead of an across-the-board increase on capital gains and other reforms to the tax code.
The White House is now looking at ways to break up the bill and try and pass the parts that have “bipartisan support” — which in and of itself is elusive, since most Republicans won’t vote for anything this president is for, and many Democrats are practically Republicans.
By the way, the reality for Nelson in particular is that he faces a tough re-election in ruby red Nebraska, which explains why he votes the way he does. And if Nelson loses in 2012, Democrats come one vote closer to losing control of the Senate. Just keep that in mind before you start getting all “let’s get rid of Ben Nelson.” Ditto Sen. Tester in Montana, which will be another closely fought and contentious battle for control of the upper chamber. These guys aren’t phased by liberals angry over their repudiation of the president. Repudiation of the president, and support for big business, is how they plan to get re-elected.
And that, my friends, is reality.