Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's $15 billion jobs bill passed though the Senate Wednesday by a comfortable 70-28 margin, collecting support from 13 Republicans. But just two days earlier, the bill passed a procedural hurdle by a much slimmer margin, as only five Republicans joined with Democrats to advance the bill.
So why did 13 Republicans support the bill on Wednesday, while only five supported it on Monday?
The answer has to do partly with Senate procedure, partly with how it was handled by Reid, and partly with the bill itself.
Sens. Max Baucus (D-MT) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) had unveiled a bipartisan bill on Feb. 11 with an $85 billion pricetag, with Grassley bringing support from within the Republican caucus to back it; hours later, Reid stripped the bill down to $15 billion, reducing it to several key elements.
So Republicans already supported those elements--they just wanted the original, bipartisan bill--and when Reid wanted a vote on his package without amendments, Republicans weren't happy about it.
Hence, they voted "no" Monday on closing debate and advancing to a vote without amendments. Once that bridge was crossed, however, they voted "yes" on the set of proposals they already supported--a payroll tax exemption, small business tax write-offs, an extension of highway programs, and letting states borrow money at lower cost for infrastructure projects. (Reid, meanwhile, has presented this bill as just the first step in a broader jobs agenda--so the door appears to be open for more legislation.)
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) was one of the eight Republicans to vote against cloture and for the bill itself.
"Sen. Murkowski was disappointed that the Majority Leader didn't allow a vote on a bipartisan bill, crafted by Sens. Grassley and Baucus, that would have addressed a number of expiring federal laws tied to job creation," spokesman Michael Brumas said.
"Additionally, she believes that the bill should've been open to amendments. So Sen. Murkowski voted against ending debate on the bill. She did support the elements contained in the pared down bill that the Senate passed today and voted for the legislation."
It's not that GOP senators opposed what was in the bill itself on Monday, or the elements of the bipartisan bill, according to a Republican aide: it was how Reid handled the bill, replacing the bipartisan agreement with his own version, after Republicans had agreed to support the Baucus/Grassley bill, and then not allowing amendments.
"The process is what it really was," the aide said, calling Reid's move a "bait and switch."
Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), another Republican who voted against cloture on Monday and for the bill on Wednesday, told The Oklahoman the same thing: "It wasn't opposition to the jobs bill as much as it was to the procedure," Inhofe said.
So, beneath the bipartisanship that this vote has allegedly brought lies some frustration with Reid and the way the jobs bill was handled--though, in the end, Republicans did vote "yes" on a set of proposals, put to a vote by the Democratic leadership, that they supported.
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