Politics is overtaking the Senate floor schedule again this week, with a vulnerable Democrat leading the charge on a bill to give tax breaks to employers who return jobs to the United States.
But Sen. John Walsh, the Democrat appointed to fill the term vacated by the departure of Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., to be ambassador to China, didn't appear before an array of cameras Tuesday afternoon with Senate colleagues, automobile and steel workers to tout his legislation.
Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., a longtime leader on the issue, indicated Walsh had a schedule conflict.
"He has indicated this is a very big issue for him in Montana, and he is playing a critical leadership role this week on the floor, joining me on Friday at a press teleconference that we did with the print media, radio media and so on. Unfortunately, he wasn't able to join us today," Stabenow said. "You will see him on the floor. You will continue to see him speaking up because he understands in Montana, as well as Michigan and all across our country that men and women who work hard every single day are sick and tired of paying for the move when a company wants to move overseas."
That conference call with reporters last week did not feature an opportunity for national reporters to ask Walsh questions because of technical issues. Walsh spoke for about two minutes out of a twenty minute call that included Stabenow and three other private sector supporters.
"This issue is deeply important to Sen. Stabenow and I," Walsh, who was the first to speak on last week's call, said. "We've seen far too many instances of multinational corporations closing factories here in the United States, while at the same time opening new plants overseas."
But he did not take any questions after Stabenow and the three others spoke. Stabenow attributed his lack of media availability to Wash traveling and bad cellphone reception.
"I'm not sure if we still have Sen. Walsh with us," Stabenow said when it was time for questions from the media. "I know he was traveling and the cellphone service wasn’t very good."
She then asked "Sen. Walsh are you still with us?" Hearing no response, she said, "I guess not," before moving on to questions.
Of course, the politically-popular measure has no chance of advancing to become law, and it likely won't overcome GOP-led opposition to even break through a potential filibuster to take up the bill. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (who has a contested election back home in Kentucky) blasted Walsh's bill and others like it as "designed primarily to create jobs for campaign consultants."
"It's a bill that’s designed for campaign rhetoric and failure — not to create jobs here in the U.S. But that's not stopping our friends on the other side from bringing it up again — just as they did right before the last big election too," McConnell said.