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Mccain's Missing Votes

Steve Benen notes that the Senate's version of the stimulus bill—the one with extra unemployment benefits, tax relief for disabled veterans, and incentives for clean energy—failed by one lonely vote yesterday. And it so happens that John McCain skipped roll call. He's been telling voters on the trail that a stimulus bill must pass, but presumably he didn't want to walk into CPAC having just voted with moderate Republicans, either.

This reminds me that, back in December, the Senate voted on another bill to repeal a few tax giveaways for oil companies and use the money to invest in renewable power. That also failed 59-40, with McCain missing that vote, too. (I've been told he hinted to local environmental groups that he'd oppose the measure, but either way, he never voted.) Things like this are, of course, why so many people are skeptical about McCain's green bona fides.

As to the bill's merits, sure, none of the green provisions—a one-year extension of the Production Tax Credit, credits for energy-efficient homes and appliances, and so on—make sense as short-term stimulus, but they're no-brainer items for boosting clean-energy sources. Virtually everyone involved in Texas's thriving wind industry told me that extending the PTC—or, better yet, making it permanent—was the single most important thing Congress could do on this front. Why Republicans who don't blink twice at corporate tax breaks in other contexts are so opposed to this is mystifying.

P.S. This also reminds me that, back during the 2004 election, the GOP-controlled Senate held a few "wedge-issue" votes to try to embarrass John Kerry and John Edwards—I'm thinking of the anti-gay marriage amendment put forward two weeks before the Democratic convention. And who can forget flag-burning? That wasn't Reid's intention with the stimulus bill, but, it's true, he certainly could put McCain in some tough spots going forward (an S-CHIP vote, say), if he was feeling uncharitable.

P.P.S. What Kevin Drum says. Note that Republicans didn't filibuster the stimulus package because they disagreed with the broader principles, or because the Democrats had larded it up with hugely expensive provisions. The heating aid for the poor, the extra unemployment benefits—small change, all thinsg considered. But the GOP filibustered it because it (slightly) advanced a few liberal priorities and, well, because they could.

--Bradford Plumer