A Modest Proposal: Call Obstruction What It Is

By James Fallows

(See UPDATE below) Here is the headline in the online home page of the NYT, about Obama's "pass this jobs bill, pass it now" proposal. Note the word "fails":


NYTJobsBill.png


The subhead and the rest of the article make clear that more Senators voted for the bill than against it -- 50 to 49. It would have been 51-48 except for a parliamentary ruse by Majority Leader Harry Reid, who switched to a "No" vote so that he would later be able to call it up for reconsideration.

We have gone so far in recent years toward routinizing the once-rare requirement for a 60-vote Senate "supermajority" into an obstacle for every nomination and every bill that our leading newspaper can say that a measure "fails" when it gets more Yes than No votes. (For background on mounting abuse of the filibuster, see accounts from late 2009, early 2010, and late 2010.)

Again, the subhead and story make the real situation clear. So how about a headline that says plainly what happened:

"Obama's Jobs Bill
Blocked by GOP in
Procedural Move"

It would fit. And it would help offset the mounting mis-impression that the Constitution dictates a 60-vote margin for getting anything done.

(Update: here's an example of the right headline, conveniently at our own site. OTOH the story itself is not as clear about the realities as the NYT's is and had an unfortunate headline in its original version at our sister site.)

Bonus Update: Here is a much worse headline and presentation from the Daily Beast.

dailybeast.png

Update^3: Thanks to T.H., a screengrab showing the greatness of the BBC.
Picture 1.png

And, via Daily Kos, even gutsier play by the Cincinnati Enquirer.  Also (more updates) excellent piece by Ari Melber in the Nation on this same story. Plus, good for the New Haven Register with this headline: "GOP senators defeat Obama's $447B jobs bill."

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2011/10/a-modest-proposal-call-obstruction-what-it-is/246528/