As luck would have it, my wife and I happened to be in the Senate gallery on Monday evening when the cloture vote was called on Harry Reid’s jobs bill. The cloture vote passed, 62-30, with a few Republicans crossing over to end debate: Scott Brown, Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins, and George Voinovich. One Democrat, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, voted against cloture, probably a managed vote intended to rescue him from his own constituents after his Cornhusker Kickback bought his pro-life principles. I expected that this would create a great deal of outrage, but most of that has probably been misplaced, although certainly understandable.
The cost of this bill is almost an embarrassment for the Democrats. Its $15 billion funding is less than 2% of the size of Porkulus, and the alternative was a bloated $85 billion cheeseburger with Republican fingerprints all over it. Neither bill would have done what its authors suggested, which was to create jobs, but the Reid bill at least had the virtue of a big discount. The Democrats wanted to pass something that made them look like they had completed the “hard pivot” to jobs, but they spend more than this on earmarks in the transportation bill every year. It’s a non-effort, and a transparent one at that.
It’s hard to call a $15 billion bill trivial at any time, but right now, that amounts to about one-hundredth of the projected budget deficit in 2010 — a sorry state of affairs, indeed. However, this is a sorry state fully owned by Democrats, and Republicans should consider this an opportunity to let Democrats commit political suicide on their own rather than rescue them from it. Harry Reid demanded a partisan bill over the bipartisan mess that would have won wide approval otherwise, and so its failure to generate job creation will fall completely on Democratic shoulders. The loyal opposition will have a splendid argument to make in the fall as midterms approach that the best Democrats could do was to offer a weak and ineffective followup to Porkulus while they schemed for a government takeover of the health-care system for the better part of two years.
That argument would have more force if 13 Republicans hadn’t voted for the Reid bill, of course, and Barack Obama has a point when he questioned why several Republicans voted to filibuster a bill they ended up voting to approve in the end. That deserves some criticism on both points. But in the end, Republicans can only cast votes on bills that Harry Reid allows to come to the floor. Democrats own this jobs bill and the paltry economic effects it will have, especially in job-creation impact. That will make it a legitimate policy issue in the midterms, as Republicans wonder aloud whether Democrats know anything at all about a private-sector economy — or whether they’re simply more interested in having government seize as much of it as possible.