Sen. GOP Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has long been known as an effective whip, and Thursday night he showed his prowess as he effectively stripped Democrats of the GOP votes needed to pass the $1.2 trillion omnibus spending bill, killing the measure for good.
A visibly frustrated and angry Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, lashed out, saying that he had nine GOP senators supporting the measure, but that suddenly the support evaporated.
"This action taken by my friends on other side of aisle going to cause people to lose their job," Reid predicted.
"There's only one reason why cloture is not being filed...He doesn't have the votes.," McConnell chided, as he referred to the term for the process to shut down a filibuster. "And the reason he doesn't have the votes is because members on this side of the aisle increasingly felt concerned about the way we do business."
A McConnell aide said the leader "worked the phones" for days, pressing his members to quash the bill which contains $8 billion in earmarks (1% of the overall bill), several that belonged to the leader, himself, before he agreed to a pork moratorium.
Tempers flared in the chamber quickly, as Republicans gloated.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz, crusader against pork, tweeted all day Wednesday and Thursday with earmarks he found in the bill, from money for disease-resistant wine grapes to a ceramics museum in Biloxi, Miss. And Thursday night, with a big grin, he praised GOP members for ditching the deal.
Freshman Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill, asked of McCain, "Did we just win?"
McCain said with a chuckle, "I dont think there's any doubt," and then joked, "I feel badly about those earmarks, because I had so much fun with them."
But Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo, who has not requested one earmark since she arrived in 2006, saw nothing funny.
Scolding Republicans for voting for an earmark moratorium but requesting earmarks at the next moment, McCaskill cried, "That's like being half-pregnant!"
"This is an equal opportunity sin," the Missouri senator said. "The notion that Republicans are trying to say this is just about the Democrats is the kind of hypocrisy that has our numbers so low."
Reid and McConnell promised to hammer out a short-term funding resolution to keep the government running.