Senate Democrats first tried to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act in the 111th Congress, but they couldn't overcome a Republican filibuster. The Democratic majority tried again in the 112th Congress, but the outcome was the same.
Senate Dems tried again in April, and the Paycheck Fairness Act had more than enough votes to pass, but once more, Republicans killed it. Indeed, the measure garnered exactly zero GOP votes.
With this in mind, yesterday's developments were, at least on the surface, unexpected.
Senate Republicans decided not to block the advancement of the Paycheck Fairness Act. Democrats needed 60 votes to advance the legislation procedurally; the tally was 73-25 on Wednesday.
In all, 19 Republicans voted to end the filibuster and allow a debate on the legislation, which is 19 more GOP votes than the Paycheck Fairness Act has ever received.
It came the same week that 25 Senate Republicans joined with the Democratic majority to advance a constitutional amendment on campaign finance.
The optimist's view might be that the combination of Democratic persistence, public attitudes, and policy merits eventually wore the GOP down. A cynic's view might be that Republicans are having an election-season epiphany, hoping to appear more moderate 54 days before the election.
But as it turns out, both of these explanations are wrong.
The GOP minority isn't supporting the underlying the bills; they're trying to waste time on purpose. As Burgess Everett explained, "Senate Republicans have a new strategy: Vote to advance bills they oppose."
The GOP broadly opposes both of these proposals -- but they are voting to extend debate on them to chew up the remaining few days on the legislative calendar and prevent Democrats from holding even more campaign-themed votes on raising the minimum wage, reforming the student loan system and striking back at the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision.
Even though those measures have already failed this year, Democrats believe holding a second round of failed votes on them will place Republicans on the wrong side of poll-tested issues right before the election. But because everyone in Congress is eying the exits for general election season, the GOP figures if it strings out debate on proposals that it opposes, the damage will be limited.
Of course, when the GOP minority runs out the clock, it's not just denying time for Democratic messaging bills; it's also leaving less time for possible votes on key issues -- such as ambassador nominations.
When Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), for example, asked why his party is suddenly voting for the same measures Republicans have killed in the recent past, he conceded, "The timing has a lot to do with it."
Ya don't say.
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