Yesterday, an unanimous Senate Republican caucus didn't just lead a filibuster to kill the American Jobs Act. The Republicans stopped the Senate from even beginning to have a discussion about doing anything at all to create jobs.
Typically, a filibuster happens after the debate has begun. A bill is brought to the floor. Senators debate it. They propose changes to it. They vote on amendments. When the amending is done, a procedural vote is held — which under Senate rules requires a supermajority of 60 votes to succeed — whether or not to end the debate and move to a final vote.
We all know Republicans have been abusing the supermajority rule for a long time to prevent Democrats from acting on behalf of the American majority. But despite the obstructionist strategy, during the first two years of the Obama administration, several significant reforms did become law — all, except health care, with a few Republican votes — after debate was allowed to occur and both parties had the opportunity to amend legislation.
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Yesterday, however, Republicans decided the risk of having any sort of jobs bill pass was just too great.
* Republicans didn't bother trying to propose alternate ideas to create jobs.
* Republicans didn't bother trying to amend the President's proposal to make it more to their liking.
* Republicans didn't bother trying to compromise for the sake of the country.
* Republicans didn't bother trying to pretend they think urgent action is necessary to end the jobs crisis.
* Republicans literally voted to say: let's not talk about jobs, let's talk about something else.
Despite the fact that…
* Nearly 9 million jobs have been lost in the Bush Recession.
* Only 2 million net jobs have been gained so far since President Obama's Recovery Act stopped the bleeding
* Job growth stubbornly continues to trail population growth.
* Nearly all Americans are demanding something — anything — from Washington to help create jobs.
Republicans nevertheless yesterday told the voters, “nope.”
This is a hell of political gamble Republicans are toying with.
President Obama opened up a 15-point lead over Republicans on who is more trusted to create jobs after being tied just one month ago, before the American Jobs Act was proposed.
And the fallout from yesterday's obstruction is unlikely to reverse those numbers.
The front-page headline in the Cincinnati Enquirer today blared: “GOP KILLS JOBS PACKAGE.”
The front-page headline in the Orlando Sentinel, above a photo of the President having a beer in a local pub with unemployed workers, read: “OBAMA: AMERICA NEEDS MY JOBS BILL.”
Yet the national media do not appear to be treating yesterday's vote as a major development. Because the outcome was predicted in advance, because political reporters are treating the Americans Jobs Act as a political maneuver and not a serious policy proposal, yesterday's vote received mundane coverage.
But the local headlines and recent polling suggest that Republicans should not take national media passivity as evidence that they are getting away with their usual “block and blame” strategy.
It will be very difficult for Republicans, during the course of the next 12 months, to keep saying “no” on having the Senate discuss jobs, without even an attempt to propose an alternative taken seriously by independent economists, and expect the public not to notice.