Conservative Dems may back GOP obstructionism

CONSERVATIVE DEMS MAY BACK GOP OBSTRUCTIONISM…. It should be a rare opportunity for historic change. A Democratic president with a popular electoral mandate gets to work on health care reform with a Democratic House and a 60-seat Democratic majority in the Senate. Republican efforts to kill reform can and should be blocked, and the policy advance that has escaped Americans for seven decades can finally come together.

But there are still those conservative Democrats who may scuttle the whole thing.

Greg Sargent flags a couple of painful quotes from center-right Senate Democrats who are speaking publicly about possibly siding with Senate Republicans on not letting senators even vote on health care reform. There’s this from Louisiana’s Mary Landrieu…

[Landrieu] flatly refused to rule out filibustering any bill, including health care and climate change legislation. “I’m going to keep an open mind, but I am not committing to any procedural straitjackets one way or another,” she said.

…and this from Ben Nelson.

“I’m not a closed mind on cloture, but if it’s an abuse of procedure, if it’s somebody trying to put a poison pill into a bill, or if it’s something that would be pre-emptive of Nebraska law, or something that rises to extraordinary circumstances, then I’ve always reserved the right to vote against cloture,” Nelson said.

Now, it’s possible that this is just posturing. When push comes to shove, and this rare opportunity to approve generational change for the nation reaches the floor, it’s possible that Landrieu and Nelson will, at a minimum, let their colleagues vote on the bill. Even in these quotes, neither said they will block an up-or-down vote; they just addressed the possibility.

For all the recent talk about Democrats reaching the 60-vote plateau, the majority party is facing something of a gut-check. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont noted last week that senators in the Democratic caucus should feel free to vote for or against any bill, but being a member of the caucus should, at a minimum, mean opposition to Republican obstructionism. Period.

“I think that with Al Franken coming on board, you have effectively 60 Democrats in the caucus, 58 and two Independents,” Sanders said in an interview with the Huffington Post. “I think the strategy should be to say, it doesn’t take 60 votes to pass a piece of legislation. It takes 60 votes to stop a filibuster. I think the strategy should be that every Democrat, no matter whether or not they ultimately end up voting for the final bill, is to say we are going to vote together to stop a Republican filibuster. And if somebody who votes for that ends up saying, ‘I’m not gonna vote for this bill, it’s too radical, blah, blah, blah, that’s fine.'”

It seems so obvious. To be a member of the Senate Democratic caucus means you’ll support letting senators vote on bills. Here’s hoping that Landrieu and Nelson, as the process continues to unfold, realize this isn’t asking much. It’s just common sense.