There’s a lot of discussion in the blogosphere about the last two important Senate votes. The decisions on these two pieces of legislation are encouraging. Perhaps the Senate finally gets it: their closed club is under intense scrutiny by the American public. Not everyone mind you; just that part of the citizenry that votes.
First, of course, is the victory that wasn’t, the victory that “turned into a rout,” as Byron York puts it:
We heard for several days that the big immigration cloture vote was going to be really, really close. “Razor-thin,” as the highly trained professional pundits like to say.
I thought so, too. I had breakfast yesterday morning, a couple of hours before the vote, with a Republican senator who was a “no” on the issue. He was keeping up with things pretty closely, and he thought the margin, one way or the other, was going to be, well, razor-thin.
Since 64 senators had voted to move the immigration bill forward on Tuesday, we discussed whether there might be five who would change their minds and vote against allowing the bill to proceed. If that happened, the bill would die by a single vote.
It seemed clear that a few senators were going to switch to “no.” But there was no guarantee there would be five. And no expectation of more than five.
And even if there were five, there were worries that Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) had something up his sleeve and might persuade a few Democrats who had voted against the bill on Tuesday to vote differently this time, keeping it alive.
Either way, it was going to be close, close, close.
And then it turned out to be a rout, with the bill’s supporters falling 14 senators short of a vote to move forward.
Why? Chalk it up to the old “profiles in courage” effect.
For a while, when it appeared that the bill had a chance of staying alive, its most timid supporters stayed on board — but only on the condition that everybody else stayed on board, too.
Then, yesterday morning, word went ’round that the required five senators had changed their minds. The immigration bill appeared headed for defeat. That’s when a squeaker became a stampede.
What were the senators thinking? Well, everybody knew that if the bill died, it would stay dead, probably for a long time. That would mean their vote on cloture would stand, certainly up until next year’s elections, as their final position on the “amnesty” bill.
In other words, the Senate has become very aware of the scrutiny voters have applied to their comings and goings. And Senators will have to go home to run for office. Any opponent could string them up merely by pointing to their approving vote for an “amnesty” bill.
“It was one of those things where people were prepared to vote for it — if it was going to pass,” says a plugged-in Senate source. “But they didn’t want to fall on their swords for a failed bill, and on the last vote on this issue for a long time.”
So the coalition that everyone described as “fragile” fell completely apart. But that only became clear in the last few minutes before the vote.
Do read the whole thing, to get the flavor of those final hours. Just the description of Teddy Kennedy’s “leather-lunged oration” is worth your time.
Note: Virginia’s junior senator, a newly elected Democrat, was one of three “turncoats” who voted to kill the thing. I am looking forward to sending him my thanks. One doesn’t often get the chance to thank a Dem, and I’m not going to let this opportunity pass unremarked.
The second piece of good news was the vote in the house to kill the resurrection of the “Fairness Doctrine.” Fairness? Sure it is:
In other news, Mike Pence [Republican, IN] is my new hero. His crafty stake to the heart of the Fairness Doctrine, which would have effectively force on me an Al Sharpton for every Sean Hannity I listen to on talk radio. The Pence Bill banned any federal funding from the FCC [that’s the Federal Communications Commission for our European readers] that would be used to enforce the Fairness Doctrine. Pence is now writing a bill that would cleanly and dryly cut the throat of the Fairness Doctrine once and for all. A 53-46 victory [he’s referring to the Senate vote on immigration] and one of 309-115 [the House vote] made for an excellent day for Americans and an excellent day for freedom of the press.
For those not familiar with the history of the Fairness Doctrine, see here.