We're once again in bad history-making territory. The transportation funding bill has always been a non-controversial, reliable bipartisan effort, because there was something tangible in it for every member of Congress to take home: jobs, infrastructure improvements, a display of federal dollars at work for their constituents. That's all changed. On the House side, leadership pulled their version of the bill off the floor Wednesday, when it became clear that the cuts were too deep for many Republicans and all Democrats to support, but not deep enough for the rabid teabaggers. That was the head-on clash of the realties of governing versus the polemics of the Ryan budget leadership had decided that every spending bill would have to adhere to. Because budget "guru" Paul Ryan has a tenuous grasp (at best) on that whole math thing, it has proved to be an impossible blueprint for actual work.
The defeat in the Senate today has its own drama, centering on Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's hold over his caucus. The bill had been a source of friction among Republicans already. A half dozen Republican senators voted to advance the bill out of committee, even though it exceeded the budget limit set by the sequester by $10 billion. Some of those defectors in committee were among the group that sided with John McCain and have helped him break the filibuster on executive nominations. So Thursday's vote was largely a test of whether McConnell could peel away those Republicans and consolidate his leadership.
Well, congratulations Mitch. You won this battle, and you'll take the increased ill will and the failure of the Senate to pass any appropriation bills yet this session home with you for the long August break. It might help you in Kentucky, but it's going to do very little to make the rest of the country happy.