Six Senate Republicans Disappoint Pundits, Allow Unemployment Insurance Debate

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Jan. 7 2014 3:13 PM

Six Senate Republicans Disappoint Pundits, Allow Unemployment Insurance Debate

174338979
Why doesn't Dan Coats think of the pundits?

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

There it was, right in the lede of the Washington Post's curtain-raiser story on the politics of inequality.

On Tuesday morning, Senate Republicans are expected to block an emergency measure to extend unemployment insurance. Soon after, President Obama will stand before a handful of the 1.3 million Americans who have begun to lose their benefits and try to shame Republicans for failing to help the nation’s neediest.
Advertisement

Plenty of other Washington chin-strokers were expecting today's cloture vote on unemployment insurance to go down. Narratives were pre-written about how this might play out—what it might mean for the GOP. But six Republicans joined just enough Democrats and let the bill move. They were: Maine Sen. Susan Collins, Indiana Sen. Dan Coats, Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, and Nevada Sen. Dean Heller (who co-wrote the bill). Ayotte, Murkowski, and Coats had all dispatched Tea Party challengers in 2010. All six of these senators serve alongside Democratic senators. Only Murkowski comes from a state that has never voted for Barack Obama.

Still: Why'd they do it? I asked Coats when he made up his mind to defy the Club for Growth, et al. and vote to move ahead.

"It's been an evolutionary process, but it's based on something most people don't understand—the way the Senate is being run," he said. "We did it to try to seek the opportunity to be a player, to offer amendments, to offer alternatives. Here we sit in our caucus, with four or five viable alternatives that we think get people back to work, that cleans up the program where it's being abused, and that cover the cost. If you vote no on the motion to proceed, you don't get the chance to show the public what those alternatives are."

Only six Republicans voted for the UI bill, but two more who voted no—Marco Rubio and Mike Lee—have started giving setpiece speeches about the persistent crisis of poverty. Coats, et al. decided to clear a path for other Republicans, because had UI gone down, Democrats would have accused the GOP of obstruction and heartlessness and senseless unicorn-murder.

David Weigel is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

TODAY IN SLATE

History

Slate Plus Early Read: The Self-Made Man

The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada. Now, Journalists Can’t Even Say Her Name.

Mitt Romney May Be Weighing a 2016 Run. That Would Be a Big Mistake.

Amazing Photos From Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution

Transparent Is the Fall’s Only Great New Show

The XX Factor

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada

Now, journalists can't even say her name.

Doublex

Lena Dunham, the Book

More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.

What a Juicy New Book About Diane Sawyer and Katie Couric Fails to Tell Us About the TV News Business

Does Your Child Have Sluggish Cognitive Tempo? Or Is That Just a Disorder Made Up to Scare You?

  News & Politics
History
Sept. 29 2014 11:45 PM The Self-Made Man The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 29 2014 7:01 PM We May Never Know If Larry Ellison Flew a Fighter Jet Under the Golden Gate Bridge
  Life
Dear Prudence
Sept. 29 2014 3:10 PM The Lonely Teetotaler Prudie counsels a letter writer who doesn’t drink alcohol—and is constantly harassed by others for it.
  Double X
Doublex
Sept. 29 2014 11:43 PM Lena Dunham, the Book More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 29 2014 8:45 AM Slate Isn’t Too Liberal, but … What readers said about the magazine’s bias and balance.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 29 2014 9:06 PM Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice Looks Like a Comic Masterpiece
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 29 2014 11:56 PM Innovation Starvation, the Next Generation Humankind has lots of great ideas for the future. We need people to carry them out.
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 29 2014 11:32 PM The Daydream Disorder Is sluggish cognitive tempo a disease or disease mongering?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 28 2014 8:30 PM NFL Players Die Young. Or Maybe They Live Long Lives. Why it’s so hard to pin down the effects of football on players’ lives.