Analysis

The Senate's 'painfully public' rejection of Obama's jobs bill: 4 lessons

Two Democrats helped Senate Republicans block the president's jobs plan from even being debated. What does that say about Washington?

Senate Republicans and two Democrats derailed President Obama's American Jobs Act Tuesday night, blocking a motion to start debating the $447 billion package. Fifty-one Democrats voted to send the bill to the Senate floor, but 60 votes were needed to break a GOP filibuster. Regardless of its failure in the Senate, the bill was never going to pass the GOP-dominated House, even after Obama's weeks of stumping for it around the country. But what does it mean that Obama's jobs plan can't even pass the Democrat-controlled Senate? Here, four possible lessons:

1. Congress isn't buying what Obama's sellingThe Senate's "painfully public defeat" of Obama's plan is a stark sign of the president's weakness in Washington, says Patricia Murphy at The Daily Beast. More stinging than the failure to win over any Republicans was the defection of the two moderate Democrats, Sens. Ben Nelson (Neb.) and Jon Tester (Mont.), both of whom are up for re-election next year. Worse yet, even some of the Democrats who voted to debate the bill said they wouldn't actually vote to pass it. That's a pretty sharp "vote of no confidence" in Obama's prescription to fix the economy.

2. Obama isn't even trying to woo CongressObama "hates to lose — on the basketball court, in the voting booth, or on Capitol Hill," say Carrie Budoff Brown and Glenn Thrush at Politico. But in this case, "winning in Congress was never really part of the plan." The White House didn't spend "much energy twisting arms" in the Democratic caucus, because after the debt-ceiling debacle, Obama no longer sees the deeply unpopular Congress as a reliable partner. Pushing his jobs bill is about proving something to voters: "I have a plan to create jobs now and Republicans don't." And according to polls, this "new strategy might be working."

3. Democrats aren't entirely self-defeatingFor Obama and the Democrats to blame the bill's failure on Republicans, a majority of at least 50 Senate Democrats had to vote to open debate, says Brian Buetler at Talking Points Memo. And after an "agonizing week" of vote-counting and cajoling, "Senate Democrats got their act together. But only barely." That's a worrisome sign: Taking a symbolic vote to support job creation "should have been a no-brainer," even for conservative Democrats. Well, in the end, enough Democrats hung together, says Jonathan Cohn at The New Republic. Maybe there's hope "Senate Democrats aren't so stupid after all."

4. Congress is uselessKeep in mind that this vote wasn't even on whether to pass the jobs bill, only to "allow a discussion to take place," says John Cole at Balloon Juice. If a handful of "Democrats and every Republican are so terrified of even discussing job creation that they have to block any and all debate on the matter," is there any hope for Congress to get anything done? No. "Out of a job? You're on your own, folks."

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