For several days now, Senate Republicans have ridiculed their Democratic counterparts for prioritizing campaign finance legislation over a bill that would benefit small businesses, arguing that Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) was putting electoral advantages over jobs for everyday people.
On Tuesday, the DISCLOSE Act failed to get the needed votes for cloture, in the process providing the Senate the time needed to move on to other business. But when leadership brought a revised version of the small business bill to the floor on Thursday morning, they were met with united Republican opposition.
Despite complaining about the delay in consideration, Republicans filibustered the measure by a vote of 58 (in favor of cloture) to 42 (against). GOP leadership argued that it wasn't against the aims of the bill per se. They objected mainly to Reid's refusal to allow consideration of amendments to the legislation.
"It's not going to die," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell spokesman Don Stewart, who noted that another vote could be held as early as today. "We just want to have amendments considered. They made a start, allowing three -- so we're making progress."
But as the GOP noted when chastising the consideration of DISCLOSE, the window for considering legislation is close to closing. As it stands now, Democrats are set to put energy legislation on the legislative calendar Friday and consider the nomination of Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court next week. After that, they will head out of town for August recess. Allowing a lengthy amendment process could derail the remainder of what the party was hoping to consider.
The other major tenet of GOP criticism is that that the bill, which has been under consideration since late June, has moved far away from its original conception. Speaking on the floor, McConnell bemoaned the fact that "over a billion dollars in agriculture spending" has been added to the text. That said, there are fairly substantive bipartisan components to the legislation, which would eliminate capital gains taxes for investment in small firms, create a Small Business Lending Fund to underwrite loan through community banks and create a credit initiative for small business to help meet state budget shortfalls. Reid, moreover, has offered the chance to consider several GOP amendments already, and could well open the window for more.
The drama, which seems likely to extend throughout the day, is not only a reflection of just how ground-down the procedural elements of the Senate have become. It also shows how difficult it has been for Democrats to push forward on economic recovery -- which, in concept, has bipartisan support but always seems to come up a bit short when it comes to a roll call.
"Eighty-one percent of the jobs lost in America are from small business," said Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.). "So when the other side complains and complains and just flaps and flaps all day long about it's a jobless recovery, we put a bill on the floor to creates jobs for small business and they say no... They can color it, paint it any way they want, that's what it was."