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Senate Dems Hand Obama a Rhetorical Victory on Jobs

October 12, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

President Obama didn’t send the American Jobs Act of 2011 to Congress because he thought it would pass and help boost the economy. He knew it would fail, but he wanted to use its failure to back up a talking point for his re-election. The Republicans are blocking the Democrats from passing their job-creation plan, the argument would go.

Last night, by a vote of 50-49, Obama got his talking point.

The vote last night was not on the bill itself, it was on cloture on the motion to proceed to the bill. In other words, the vote was on whether to end debate on debating the bill and move towards a vote on beginning the actual debate. The motion required a 60-vote supermajority to be approved.

Tthe motion did get a bare majority, which is what the President needed (even though the final “aye” tally stands at 50, it’s really 51, because Majority Leader Harry Reid [D, NV] switched his vote from “aye” to “no” at the last minute for procedural reasons). In a sign of just how badly the Democrats wanted to get to 51 on the bill, the vote was held open for more than two hours while Sen. Jeanne Shaheen [D, NH] flew in from New Hampshire to cast her vote. Shaheen’s vote didn’t affect the outcome in any way, it just gave Obama and the Democrats the magic number they needed in order to claim a majority.

A number of Democrats who voted in favor of the motion — Joe Manchin [WV], Joe Lieberman [CT] and Jim Webb [D, VA] — said that they do not support the bill and would vote against it on passage. So the Democrats really did not have the votes to pass the bill if they had gotten to that point, and they knew it. At one point in the debate leading up to last night’s cloture vote, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell [R, KY] offered to vitiate the Republican objection to unanimous consent and hold a straight up-or-down vote on the bill itself, which would have required only 51 votes to pass. Reid rejected that offer, saying taht he would prefer to hold a debate so that senators could offer amendments. “I think it would be to everyone’s best interest to move to proceed to this so we can make this legislation even better than it now is,” he said on the Senate floor.

After the vote, Obama released a statement saying that it was “by no means the end of this fight.” Democrats are planning to break the bill up into smaller pieces that could attract bipartisan support and try to move those through Congress.As for what a smaller version of the bill might look like…

Democrats, of course, have plenty of disagreements within their own ranks over what to do next — to the delight of the GOP.

Some are talking about just moving the tax cuts in an effort to corner the GOP; others want spending on infrastructure or other pieces. And they are still arguing among themselves over how to pay for any type of package.

As I reported yesterday, one thing that so far does not seem to be on the table for inclusion in a smaller version is another extension of unemployment insurance benefits.

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