Josh Marshall was in a sarcastic mood for a while today...under the header "Things That Are Cool," he says:
It's a great situation when every member of the caucus can kill the legislation on a whim.
Sure. And of course the key problem is that there are exactly 60 Senators who caucus with the Democrats, and it takes 60 to get cloture in the Senate.
But you know what? There were only 58 Democrats back in the spring, and the stimulus basically worked out the same way. If there were 62 Democrats right now, Holy Joe and the Benator would probably be long gone on this bill, and Bayh and Lincoln and Landrieu would be holding things up. If the Dems only had 56, then they would have long since ditched the public option and secured Nelson, Lieberman, Snowe and Collins...and they would be trying to get two of Lugar, Voinovich, and whoever was 61st. Or maybe they would have gone for a smaller bill designed to withstand reconciliation, and they would have lost five of the fifty-six, and be negotiating with #49, 50, and 51.
And here's the thing: yes, the Dems did accept some Republican amendments, and yes, we had the fun of the Gang of Six during the summer, and yes, there are lots of Republicans who are dedicated to opposing anything that Democrats propose. But make no mistake about it: this bill is designed to get exactly 60 votes. It's designed to be the most liberal bill that 60 Senators can vote for. And Pelosi is doing the same in the House, which is why there are so many close votes on that side.
So, while it is true that Republicans are following a rejectionist strategy, it's also true that Democrats are placing a priority on getting the most liberal bill possible, not the most possible votes. And the downside of that is that it's going to mean that one or two Senators are always going to be in a position to derail things.