In the first official test of President Obama’s jobs proposal, the Senate voted to advance the massive $447 billion bill on Tuesday. The tally was fifty to forty-eight, with an additional vote in favor expected from Jeanne Shaheen, a New Hampshire Democrat. That majority support is a significant endorsement of Obama’s economic agenda—but you’d never know it from the way things unfolded since Tuesday night.
While opponents of the jobs bill were clearly outnumbered, they signaled their commitment to filibustering the legislation to death. It takes sixty votes to cut off debate, of course, and Republicans voted against an initial, procedural cloture motion to move from debate to the straight vote.
So, the bottom line is that the Senate currently has the votes to pass this bill. The GOP is willing, however, to shut down Senate business indefinitely just to prevent that vote.
If you glance at the headlines, though, you’d think the Senate just failed to come up with the votes for this bill. Here are just a few typical (and influential) examples:
Political reporters have become so accustomed to the constant abuse of the filibuster, they don’t even lead with the news here: A jobs bill during an unemployment crisis has majority support, but is being blocked from a straight vote. It’s not just reporters, either—the political establishment, including many Democrats, have largely accepted the premise that all legislation should be subjected to a sixty-vote super-majority hurdle. Yet this is a very new, very damaging way to run the Senate. (Washington Post‘s Ezra Klein has the radical data.)
Contrast the US press coverage to a view from across the pond, where the Senate’s undemocratic obstruction apparently turns more heads. The BBC went with a simple reference to the cloture, while the International Business Times really breaks it down:
Under the Senate rules, Republicans can talk bills to death and deny most legislation a vote. But that doesn’t mean the rest of us have to cover their tracks.