Again with the Cots?

by Jonathan Bernstein

Joe Klein wants to know why the Democrats didn't "bring out the cots" and force a "live" filibuster on Jim Bunning last week.

Asked and answered: because it wouldn't have done any good.  In fact, this well-reported story by David Dayen (via one of Klein's commenters) explains exactly how this works...the Democrats could have defeated Bunning alone by attrition, but once other Republicans proved willing to support him, there was no longer any point to continuing except as a public relations maneuver.

Now, once we're at the level of public relations gimmicks -- not legislative strategy -- Klein might or might not be correct.  In a comment, he refers to the Clinton/Gingrich government shut down, which certainly played well for the Dems.  But that's not analogous to a live filibuster.  In fact, the current Democratic strategy strikes me as essentially similar to Clinton's 1995-1996 strategy -- let Republican obstructionism actually take away stuff that people like, then hope that it will turn people against the Republicans.  In other words, no one paid attention to the Senate's late night session on Thursday as it was, and odds are that the reaction to a seventy-two hour session at the end of the week would have been a pox on both their houses, but as it was the Democrats were able to make a clean case that Jim Bunning and the Republicans took away people's benefits.  So once it reached that point, I think the Democrats chose their best option.

At any rate, while the spin effects of various tactics are open to debate, the important thing to remember is that forcing a live filibuster doesn't work.  It cannot beat a determined filibuster conducted by multiple Senators.  That can only be beaten by a cloture vote or by cutting a deal.