The Senate plan for the JOBS Act today, a financial deregulation bill that would weaken investor protections with no economic benefit, was for three cloture votes – an amendment to add investor protections to the bill, an amendment to attach a reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank to the bill, and, if those failed, a cloture vote on the bill itself.

The strengthening amendment from Sens. Jack Reed and Carol Levin, which would have reinstated some investor protections, received 54 votes including Republican Scott Brown, but failed to cross the 60-vote threshold. All Democrats voted for the strengthening amendments, even Chuck Schumer, who had been shepherding the JOBS Act along. The clout of Carl Levin and Jack Reed must have loomed large within the party.

Then, the Cantwell amendment for the Ex-Im Bank received 55 votes, with Susan Collins joining Brown, but also failed to get the required 60.

The third vote was supposed to be on cloture for the underlying bill, which would have put it on a path to passage. But instead of allowing that, Reid cancelled the final vote, instead adjourning the Senate and going off to a Senate Democratic caucus. That’s a strong show of support for either the strengthening amendments or the Ex-Im Bank reauthorization. Probably the latter, as Reid blasted Senate Republicans for their intransigence in a statement:

Today, Republicans voted against an overwhelmingly bipartisan measure that would have supported more than 300,000 American jobs simply to provide cover for Tea Party extremists in the House. Once again, Republicans are manufacturing a fight instead of working with Democrats on bipartisan solutions to create jobs. Reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank is something that has always been done on a broad, bipartisan basis. Yet like so many other common-sense measures that used to pass without a fight, Republicans have turned this bipartisan bill into a partisan political battle.

Republicans must now explain to the American people why they decided that the marching orders they received from their extremist Tea Party allies are more important than the jobs of hard-working Americans across the country.

It looks like Reid will not allow the JOBS Act to go forward without the Ex-Im Bank reauthorization. And considering what an awful mess the JOBS Act actually is, that’s good news.

Barbara Roper of the Consumer Federation of America said in a statement that “Senate Majority Leader Reid’s decision to delay further action is a welcome development. There is no reason why today’s cloture vote should be the last opportunity senators have to adopt badly needed fixes to this dangerous deregulatory bill.” Clearly almost all Republicans could care less about protecting investors and stopping fraud in the financial markets, so the amendment route is unlikely. But this Ex-Im difficulty allows time for advocates to mount a larger defense. Roper makes it pretty clear:

Senators have been put on notice: A vote for the House bill is a vote to weaken investor protections, undermine market transparency, and damage the integrity of our capital markets. If the bill is adopted without investor protection changes, the public will be left to suffer the consequences.

The bullet has been dodged for now. But I would expect Senate Republicans to claim that Reid went back on his word on a deal to trade a vote on the JOBS Act for judicial confirmations. No doubt they’ll start filibustering those nominations now. Conversely, 40 of the 54 members who voted for the strengthening amendments could simply filibuster the underlying JOBS Act and block the bill, upholding the bargain of allowing it a vote. And so it’s a test of wills between the parties to see what will happen next.