Cloture passes, 64-35

Eighteen new Republica “Yea” votes, compared to last time; only three new Democratic votes, with two Democrats switching the other way.

This isn’t the end of the story, of course. This was just cloture on the motion to proceed with the bill. There’s another one coming on passing the bill itself, and a third on the conference report.

Baucus, Bayh, Byrd, Conrad, Dorgan, Landrieu, McCaskill, Rockefeller, Stabenow, Tester were the nine Democratic “Noes.” Among the Democrats, only Boxer, Pryor, and Webb changed from “No” last time to “Yea” this time. Bayh and Conrad switched the other way; I have no idea what that’s about.

The sound you hear in the background is Republican Senators’ arms being twisted until they groan. Last time, there were only seven Republican “Yeas”: Graham, Hagel, Lugar, Martinez, McCain, Specter, Voinovich. Today, there were fifteen switches: Bennett, Bond, Burr, Coleman, Collins, Craig, Domenici, Ensign, Gregg, Kyl, Lott, McConnell, Murkowski, Snow, and Stevens. Brownback, Coburn, and Enzi, who didn’t show last time &#8212 effectively a “No,” since the motion needs 60 votes to pass &#8212 all voted “Yea.”

Barusso, the new guy from Wyoming, voted “No.” Only Johnson didn’t show.

I guess if you’d asked me to bet I would have bet on exactly sixty votes for cloture, on the theory that the leadership on both sides wanted it to pass but that passing it would require getting some Senators to go along who for electoral reasons would have preferred not to, and that the leadership would therefore buy or coerce as few of those reluctant players as possible. But that’s not what happened. That suggests that the muscle was coming largely from the outside, and that some at least of the Republican switchers decided they were more afraid of the Chamber of Commerce than they were of the nativists.

Maybe in the long run Bush/Rove/McCain/McConnell are right that the GOP can’t afford, for its own long-term health, to be on the wrong side of history on this issue. But in the short run, it seems to me this is nothing but good news for the Democrats. I’m not really ready to predict that the GOP will pull itself apart on this issue they way the Whigs did on Abolition in the 1850s or the Democrats did on Civil Rights during the Second Reconstruction (or as the English Liberals did on Home Rule), but stranger things have happened. The fury on immigration in Wingnuttistan is something to behold.

What’s more likely than not, however, is a bunch of nasty Republican Senate primaries and a demobilized Republican base in 2008: as long as we don’t give them Hillary Clinton to re-mobilize themselves with.

Footnote Anyone got a theory on Brownback’s “Yea” vote? It seems an odd decision for someone who is trying to be the official wingnut candidate for President. Maybe he figured that if McCain continues to collapse he might be the only remaining pro-immigration candidate.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: