Recall that on Tuesday, McConnell pushed Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to allow a vote on President Obama’s original jobs bill — no amendments, no real debate — just a vote on whether to tack it on to the broadly bipartisan Chinese currency legislation the Senate’s currently debating.
McConnell knew Reid was tweaking the bill, to coalesce party support for it. He knew that if Reid agreed to vote on the bill Obama sent to Congress, several Dems would defect from it, generating a series of unfortunate headlines for Democrats. And he knew that if Reid blocked the vote (which he did) it would generate a different series of unfortunate headlines for Democrats.Reid denied McConnell the vote. McConnell got his headlines. And Dems rejiggered Obama’s bill so that it has near-unanimous support within the caucus, and they can put Republicans on the spot over it in the days ahead.
But McConnell wasn’t done. There’s a trick in the Senate’s arcane procedural book that allows him to force a vote on a different question: Should the Senate suspend its rules and vote on Obama’s jobs bill? It’s a pretty unusual motion. It requires a two-thirds majority to pass, and Democrats will likely vote against it en masse.
Republicans will then be able to claim that the Senate unanimously (or near unanimously) opposes Obama’s jobs bill. They’ll blast out press releases to reporters, and McConnell will get a series of headlines about how Dems defected from the President. Or at least that’s the goal.
But Democrats have tweaked that bill, Obama approves of those tweaks, and, with the China currency bill behind them, Reid will force a key test vote on it in the next several days. Then (Reid’s hope is) the headlines will note that Republicans filibustered the American Jobs Act.