With the deciding vote cast by Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown — who interrupted preparations for his mother’s funeral to return to Washington — the U.S. Senate approved the $787 billion stimulus bill Friday night.
The measure passed the Senate with the votes of all members of the Senate Democratic caucus and three moderate Republicans — Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania.
The three Republican votes made it possible to suggest that the bill President Obama will now sign was passed with a bipartisan majority.
But the truth is that there was very little in the way of genuine bipartisanship on display Friday.
Weeks of negotiation and compromising by Democrats — which saw a reasonably populist job creation and economic recovery bill turned into a tepid plan weighted down with conservative tax schemes — still did not gain a single vote from House Republicans for the stimulus plan.
Before Friday’s Senate vote, the House approved the measure by a 246-183 vote.
The votes in favor of the stimulus came from 246 Democrats.
The votes against it came from 176 Republicans and seven Democrats.
The only real shift from the vote on the original House bill — which included a great deal more spending for school construction, state aid and health care initiatives with the potential to create jobs and ease the pain of the economic downturn — involved a slight decline in Democratic opposition.
When the legislation was initially considered, 11 Democrats — most of the conservative Blue Dogs — vote “no.” On Friday, only seven Democrats voted against it. (Among the switchers was Tennessee Congressman Jim Cooper, a prominent Blue Dog. Another switcher was Pennsylvania Congressman Paul Kanjorski, the chair of the Chairman of the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Capital Markets, Insurance, and Government Sponsored Enterprises.)
In the Senate, there was no change — except that New Hampshire Senator Judd Gregg, who was under consideration to become Obama’s Secretary of Commerce but has since withdrawn, cast an additional Republican vote against the stimulus.
So it was 57 Democrats and three Republicans voting “yes” in the Senate.
But, make no mistake, the votes by Collins, Snowe and Specter were the most meaningful.
Though they account for less than one percent of the overall membership of the Congress, Collins, Snowe and Specter have successfully redefined the legislation as something less than the majority Democrats proposed — and, unsettlingly, something less than may be needed to renew a sagging economy.
Collins, Snowe and Specter did not, however, succeed in convincing any Republicans that they changes they made were close enough to the opposition party’s generally agreed upon goal of doing little or nothing to address the current crisis.
For Americans who would like to do something most members of Congress have not, the bill — including scribbled changes — can be read here.