Earlier today I mentioned the latest illustration of Sen. Mitch McConnell's GOP stopping an Obama jobs-bill proposal by threatening a filibuster. And the latest illustration of the press presenting this as the bill's "failure," rather than its being "blocked by filibuster."
This afternoon one of Sen. McConnell's staffers sent me this email:
You're right, the vote was 51-49. But remember, at least two of the Senators who voted to "proceed" to the bill, did so with the caveat that they opposed the bill itself. Just like the cloture vote on the full bill. It, too, got 51 votes to proceed, but a handful of Democrats said they would vote against the bill if the actual bill (not just a procedural vote) came to a vote. In other words, there is a majority opposed to the bill(s), even though there is a bare majority in favor of proceeding to the bills.
I wrote back saying, then why bother blocking the bill with a filibuster? Why not just let it come to a vote? The staffer replied:
We tried that. Sen. McConnell offered to take up the President's bill (either the original version or Sen. Reid's). Democrats objected--they don't want to take that vote and show that they have less than a majority.
So I called Sen. Harry Reid's office to ask, What about this? His spokesman, Adam Jentleson, said that McConnell's "offer" was "too cute by half." (Before you ask, I am using Jentleson's name because I called making a normal press query and asked if I could quote him. I haven't heard back yet from the McConnell staffer about whether I can use his name. The significant fact in his case is that this came from someone representing Sen. McConnell.) According to Jentleson, the Republicans were willing to allow an up-or-down vote on the merits only under special rules that would allow no adjustment or amendments to the bill. It would be a take-it-or-leave it choice, on a proposal they knew some Democrats had objections to.
"The way the Senate normally works is that you debate and negotiate and amend, in order to come up with something that can get 50 votes," Jentleson said. Fifty is what it would take for passage, with VP Biden able to cast the tie-breaking vote. But allowing the Senate to proceed to that normal negotiating process is what the GOP blocked by threat of filibuster. According to Jentleson, the Republicans agreed to a vote on the bill only in special circumstances that they knew would guarantee its failure. The normal give-and-take process that might have led to its passage is what they were determined to block, and did.