Et Tu, NYT Editorial Page Writer?

By James Fallows

From today's (otherwise excellent) NYT editorial on the Senate's recent 51-47 "defeat" of an Obama proposal to cut oil subsidies:

Despite pleading by Mr. Obama, the Senate on Thursday could not produce the 60 votes necessary to pass a bill eliminating $2.5 billion a year of these subsidies.

(In case you've missed the previous ten million items on this topic: 60 votes is necessary to "break a filibuster," not to "pass a bill." The more often the press -- and this is the NYT editorial page! -- elides the difference between the two, the more firmly it ratifies the 28th Amendment to the Constitution. This is the McConnell Amendment: that the Senate shall be converted into a minority-veto body, through routine filibuster of all measures.)

Is there any other way to report this news? Yes indeed! Here are Glen Johnson and Bobby Caina Calvan of the Boston Globe, on the same story, featuring the role of Massachusetts senator Scott Brown:

The 51-47 vote was mostly along party lines.

A majority of Democrats, including Brown's senior colleague Senator John F. Kerry, voted in favor of eliminating the subsidies, but they fell far short of the 60 votes needed to withstand a filibuster. Only two Republicans, Senators Olympia J. Snowe and Susan M. Collins of Maine, joined the Democrats. Four Democrats voted against repealing the subsidies.

And from the Associated Press, as carried in Newsday:

Senate keeps oil tax subsidies flowing
WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama's plea to Congress to end $4 billion in tax subsidies to oil companies was rebuffed yesterday as the Senate turned back a Democratic bill to repeal the tax breaks.
Moments after Obama made his election-year appeal in the White House Rose Garden, the Senate failed to get the necessary two-thirds vote to proceed [JF note: actually, three fifths, not two thirds: still, heart is in the right place] to a measure that would have ended the subsidies....
The Senate vote was 51-47, short of the 60 votes necessary.

As mentioned recently, these updates are offered as a real-time chronicle of a "change in norms" becoming a "change in rules," right before our eyes. Sooner or later people will assume that of course 60 votes is "necessary to pass a bill." Look, it says so right there, in the newspaper of record!

Bonus civics point: when the Democrats are back in the minority in the Senate, either they will:
  - continue this filibuster-everything strategy, which will be bad for the country; or
  - not continue it, which will be bad for them.

Either way, the McConnell Era will have made its damaging mark. We might as well note that it's happening.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/03/et-tu-nyt-editorial-page-writer/255302/