Mitch McConnell just pulled a made-for-headlines trick on the Senate floor, challenging Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to allow an immediate vote on President Obama’s jobs bill — not as a stand-alone measure, but as an amendment to the China currency legislation the Senate is currently debating.
Obama’s been demanding that Congress pass his jobs bill day in and day out for weeks, so the tactic had an obvious allure. It wasn’t done in the spirit of debating the jobs bill, or even giving it an up or down vote. It was to generate headlines like, “McConnell demands vote on Obama jobs bill” or “Reid blocks vote on Obama jobs bill.” Or if Reid had allowed the vote, the headlines could’ve read “Dems Join Republicans In Rebuffing Obama Jobs Bill.”
Pretty clever. But it’s not the whole story.
Reid’s plan is to set the jobs bill up for a test vote later in October, but as a stand-alone proposition. That vote, if successful, would allow the Senate to debate the legislation — argue about it on the floor, offer amendments. But it will likely run headlong into a GOP-led filibuster. If it does, Dems will be able to claim Republicans won’t even allow debate on the jobs package, and try to win the battle for public perception.
McConnell tried to short circuit that plan Tuesday by offering the Senate a chance to tack Obama’s jobs bill, unamended, on to the China currency legislation — a bill that already enjoys broad bipartisan support. As McConnell predicted, Reid objected. And he got his headlines.
But that’s not the end of the story. Or rather, the story’s not in those headlines. Reid also offered McConnell several options, including to delay debate on the China currency bill and hold the first test vote on the jobs bill today, but as a stand-alone measure. But of course, that woudn’t have given McConnell what he wanted — either to have Reid obstruct Obama’s jobs bill, or for Obama’s jobs bill to fail on a bipartisan basis. So he wasn’t exactly keen on it. Thus, no vote for Obama’s jobs bill today, unless it’s on McConnell’s terms.
This, I think it’s safe to say, is why Congress’ approval rating is at a record high.
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Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.