A lot of leftbloggers are understandably upset that the 60-vote requirement is still with them. How can Democrats control 60% of the Senate, and still be unable to get a goddamn cloture vote?
Well, Teddy Kennedy is out of commission. But not totally. This shouldn't keep Democrats from passing legislation. Why can't Democrats do this? Hilzoy points out that Democrats could always vote for cloture and then vote no:
It's one thing to vote against something, and quite another to vote against the proposition that a majority should be able to determine whether or not it passes in the Senate. There are rare occasions when I could see doing that. (I would have filibustered the Iraq war, for instance.) But voting to sustain a filibuster ought to be very serious, and wholly different from simply not supporting a bill.Democrats ought at least to be able to insist that their members should not obstruct the agenda that the party as a whole has embraced. Absent some very compelling reason, voting to sustain a filibuster on any important piece of Democratic legislation ought to be seen not just as a way of not supporting a bill, but as undermining both the Democratic Party and the Senate as a body. And it should be punished. When Senators vote to sustain a filibuster of a bill that's a Democratic priority, they should absolutely lose seniority.
But of course, if Hilzoy were in the Senate, she wouldn't be Hilzoy; she'd be someone who had just spent some of the best years of their life putting themself into a position to get into the Senate. And she'd undoubtedly have plans to stay there for a good, long time, doing all manner of wonderful things for her constituents, and the world.
I am perhaps too fond of rational actor models, as I am constantly assured by angry commenters, but I assume that the reason Democrats can't get the votes for cloture is that many of their members do not want to vote at all--they come from states sufficiently finely balanced that voting either yes or no on things like healthcare could be their undoing. Moreover, I assume the reason the Democrats have not put the arm on their members is that they believe that doing so would result in the loss of their 60-vote majority in 2010. Even further, I believe that the Senate leadership is probably much better at assessing this particular risk than I am.
So what is a good Democrat to do? That, alas, I cannot answer, since I am not a good Democrat. All I have to offer is my own surprise that it's so hard to get things done even with those magical 60 votes.