McCain: I'm inclined to vote with Democrats for cloture on this Boehner/Ryan budget deal

This barely qualifies as news — Maverick being maverick-y, really? — but Drudge has been leading all day with that Daily Mail story claiming that zero Senate Republicans are backing the House’s budget bill. That makes it sound like McConnell and crew are set to kill this thing with a filibuster and put the two parties back at the brink of a shutdown in January. Not so. It’s sort of true that no Senate GOPer is supporting the deal in the sense that no one’s said yet that they’re voting for the final bill. But the final bill is irrelevant; Democrats can pass that on a party line with a simple majority. The big vote, as usual, is on cloture. And, as usual, you can guess which Republicans are lining up to cross the aisle.

With 53 Democrats and two independents expected to back the measure, four Republicans — John McCain of Arizona, Susan Collins of Maine, Jeff Flake of Arizona and Richard Burr of North Carolina — said that they would vote to cut off debate on the budget, putting proponents just one vote shy of advancing the measure to final passage.

Several additional GOP senators signaled Friday that they may also vote to advance the deal, including Sens. Bob Corker of Tennessee, Lisa Murkowksi of Alaska and John Hoeven of North Dakota, giving proponents new confidence that a messy and acrimonious first session of the 113th Congress appears close to ending just before Christmas…

“I’m not OK with it,” McCain said [of the House bill] Friday, “but I think it’s better than shutting down the government.”

Added Collins: “I will vote for cloture. I’m still weighing [final passage] but I’m inclined toward it … The advantages of having a budget outweigh the reservations that I have.”

Give ol’ Mav points for honesty: Even in the House, this lame deal was all about preventing another shutdown and keeping the GOP’s political momentum going in the new year. So long as six centrist Republicans in the Senate are willing to help Reid get to 60, the rest can impress conservative voters back home by pounding the table and voting no. Rest assured, though, all of them (or nearly all) are relieved and really making no bones about it:

“We took the brunt of the shutdown blame,” said a senior GOP aide. “No doubt—it’s a good thing for us.” Put another way, if Senate Republicans blocked the budget agreement, they would play into what a senior Democratic aide called “one of our favorite narratives on them,” obstructionism. “I don’t think anybody on either side wants a government shutdown,” said Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark. “We need to get this behind us.”

The other X factor here, of course, is Reid’s decision last month to repeal the filibuster in the case of executive appointees and lower-court judicial nominees. The filibuster remains in effect for legislation, but it’s widely assumed that one side or the other will go ahead and nuke that too sooner or later under the right circumstances. Filibustering the budget deal might have been “the right circumstances.” The GOP’s already at a PR disadvantage when it comes to government shutdowns, and the fact that Boehner and Ryan vouched for the bill in the House would give Reid an easy opening to claim that Senate GOPers were being insanely obstructionist in blocking it. If McConnell et al. held firm, Reid could allow a new shutdown to happen in January, just to goose Republicans’ unfavorable rating, and then declare that he has no choice but to end it by nuking the filibuster in the name of passing a bipartisan, Boehner-approved government funding bill. That might have been popular with the public. Then Democrats could exploit that precedent to end the filibuster for good next year — including, possibly, for a new Supreme Court nominee’s confirmation. McCain and the others may simply have concluded that the stakes in the budget bill are too small to hand Reid that sweet of a plum.

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