Update: 8:56 p.m. Eastern –Â At the last moment, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid switched his vote to “no” after Sen. Shaheen cast a yes vote. Reid altered his position in order to be able to bring the measure to a vote again. The final tally came to 50-49.
Senate Democrats lost a procedural hurdle on President Obama’s jobs bill Thursday night, scuttling any progress on passage of the entire package.
As of early evening, Senate Democrats were still holding the vote open for Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), who had a scheduling conflict and was still in flight when the vote began. With Shaheen’s yes vote, Senate Democrats could show a majority of support, 51 votes, for the President’s $447m plan to spur economic growth.As expected though, no Republicans crossed the aisle to vote in favor of shutting down a GOP filibuster of the bill (Democrats would have needed at least seven defecting GOPers to reach the 60-vote threshold to shut down debate and move for a vote on the bill), essentially stopping the full jobs package dead in its tracks.
“We knew they were going to block the bill,” Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said after the most of the votes were taken, “but… this will be an ongoing fight.”
The largely symbolic vote demonstrated the deep GOP opposition to the bill, but all day political observers expected it to put Democratic divisions over the President’s approach to bolstering the economy into sharp relief as well. In the end, two Democratic senators, Sens. Ben Nelson (D-NE) and Jon Tester (D-MT) voted with Republicans to continue the filibuster.
“The things I support in this bill are outweighed by the things I can’t support,” Tester told reporters afterward.
“It’s less about what the spending’s about,” Nelson said. “[The] point is, it’s raising taxes to engage in more spending in Washington. That’s not what people back home want. They want to see the cuts, and we’re not seeing any cuts.”
Rep. Joe Manchin (D-WV) earlier had signaled he might vote against the cloture vote, but in the end he voted with Democrats, although he said he still doesn’t support the underlying bill. Thursday afternoon Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) said he was of the same mind, to vote in favor of the procedural vote but against the bill itself because he opposed the plans to pay for it with tax increases on the wealthy instead of an across-the-board increase on capital gains and other reforms to the tax code.
Early in the day, White House officials were lowering expectations and rejecting the notion — even among senior Democrats — that the President’s jobs bill needs to get unanimous Democratic support or face serious questions about its viability.
“The test is not unanimous support among Democrats,” a senior White House official told reporters Tuesday morning, noting that rarely does the entire Democratic caucus vote in lockstep on any bill.
The focus, the official said, should be on Republicans’ unanimous opposition to the jobs bill — even though they have failed to present an alternative that would create jobs immediately.
“They’re a party in unanimity — voting against things that in normal times” would be considered popular and bipartisan such as extending the payroll tax relief and rebuilding aging roads and bridges, the official said.
To ramp up the pressure on Republicans, the White House is already working with the Senate Democratic leaders to break the jobs package into component parts and hold future votes on pieces of the plan, such as the payroll tax relief, infrastructure spending and tax incentives for hiring veterans, all of which have strong bipartisan support, the official added.
Brian Fung contributed to this report.