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Jobs Bill Fails Cloture Test Again; Future Uncertain

Senate Republicans successfully filibustered the scaled-back tax extenders/jobs bill Thursday, by a count of 56-40. All Republicans voting voted against the bill, including such so-called moderate Republicans as Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins and Scott Brown. The bill had been gutted of about $25 billion dollars in spending, including a $25 boost to unemployment checks, and a push back of the “doc fix” to avoid a 21% cut in Medicare reimbursement rates from a 19-month extension to a 12-month extension. Collins and Snowe are apparently demanding that the Senate take out aid to the states to pay for their Medicaid programs.

After the failed cloture vote, Harry Reid tried to move components of the bill by unanimous consent. He tried a standalone implementation of the doc fix. He tried a standalone extension of unemployment insurance. He tried a standalone increase of Medicaid funding for the states, and he tried a standalone extension of the closing date for the homebuyer’s tax credit (I disagree with Reid on that one). Each time, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell objected, citing that the provisions had to be “paid for.” He suggested that the Medicaid funding wasn’t crucial because it’s paid out to the end of the year (this is nonsense; most states set their budgets around this time for the next fiscal year, and must have the foreknowledge that funding is coming in order to do that).

McConnell then asked unanimous consent for a “paid-for” bill that included several elements of the extenders package, including the above elements and more. Reid asked him “how is this paid for.” And McConnell sheepishly muttered, “with stimulus money.” This was unacceptable to Reid.

The road from here is unclear, but it probably goes right through that Medicaid money. Failing that, the Senate could just drop the whole thing. And that, my friends, is how a bill becomes “not a bill.”

UPDATE: WaPo notes that Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman joined the Republicans in voting no. Harry Reid did not vote no on the procedural matter, which, if he were planning to take up the measure again, he would have done.

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David Dayen

David Dayen