Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid led colleagues and the White House to believe he supported a bipartisan jobs bill — only to scuttle the plan as soon as it was released Thursday over concerns it could be used to batter Democratic incumbents, according to Senate sources.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) worked for weeks with Reid's blessing and frequent involvement to craft an $85 billion jobs bill, a measure that seemed destined to break the partisan logjam that has ground the Senate to a halt.
But as Baucus, Grassley and President Barack Obama were preparing to celebrate a rare moment of bipartisan Kumbaya on Thursday, Reid stunned a meeting of Senate Democrats by announcing he was scrapping Baucus-Grassley, replacing it with a much cheaper, more narrowly crafted, $15 billion version.
"Grassley and three to four Republicans would have voted for it, but all the other Republicans would have beaten the living s—t out of us [during the 2010 midterms], claiming the bill was too bloated," said a Democrat who supported Reid's decision, explaining the leader's logic.
Few felt as good about the decision: Republicans say the about-face will only add to an already poisonous partisan atmosphere, liberal Democrats think the bill is too small to do much good and the powerful negotiators of the bipartisan package were left embarrassed, demoralized and befuddled.