A needless tizzy has erupted over Scott Brown’s vote today that put him with the Democratic majority to end debate on a jobs bill. Some on the left are smirking about the supposed seduction of Brown to their side, and some on the right are whipping themselves into a frenzy about this supposed RINO. Both sets are getting this completely wrong.
Brown wasn’t the only Republican to vote for this bill. Other moderates – the two Maine Senators, Kit Bond, and George Voinovich – joined the Democrats as well, so it’s not as if Brown was the decisive vote that allowed debate to end. And that’s the other thing – the vote was for cloture, not on the bill’s final passage, a fine point that seems to be lost on a lot of people.
Some people need to realize that Scott Brown is a Massachusetts Republican. That means 15-20% of the time he’ll vote in a way that will annoy hard-core conservatives – but more importantly, 80% of the time he’ll be on your side. What separates the “good” moderate from the “bad” are the specific instances where the independence comes into play. Will it be for a big issue (stimulus, health care reform) or a small one?
A vote for cloture on a $15 billion jobs bill isn’t worth throwing Scott Brown immediately under the bus. He still opposes the current version of health case and remains strong on national security issues. In order to represent his constituents, he is almost compelled to vote with Democrats on occasion. The larger reality, which the smirkers may want to remember, is that he is still a Republican, one that was elected in one of the most liberal states in America on a platform of opposition to the current version of health care reform.
I’m not going to lose a wink of sleep over Scott Brown’s vote. He remains a symbolic figure and an important component of the Republican rebranding effort. In fact, the Republicans would be wise to utilize him in questioning the President on Thursday in the so-called health care summit. In any event, as a newly elected Senator from Massachusetts, Scott Brown deserves a break on this one.