Oh, now they’re thinking about the party-unity strategy

OH, NOW THEY’RE THINKING ABOUT THE PARTY-UNITY STRATEGY…. Sam Stein reports this afternoon that Senate Democratic leaders are taking a renewed interest in pushing the caucus on party unity. Dems and those who caucus with the party can certainly vote up or down on reform, but they should “at least commit to blocking a Republican filibuster.”

Proponents of the strategy say it is being actively discussed both on Capitol Hill and within the White House — “every day,” said one Democrat who is actively involved with both branches when it comes to passing health care legislation. “That’s the whole conversation. At the end of the day we don’t need them to vote for the bill. We need to get them to get to cloture to end the debate.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders, (I-VT) has pushed the strategy on the Hill, and senior aides say he has the backing of the party’s leadership.

It doesn’t really matter how any of the centrist and center-right Democrats vote on reform — what matters is whether they’ll let the Senate vote on the bill or join with Republicans in blocking a vote from occurring. Nelson, Landrieu, Lincoln, Bayh, Lieberman, et al can take a firm stand against reform legislation, just so long as they agree to support cloture first.

If Massachusetts’ vacancy is filled, it’s the solution that solves the problem. Reconciliation won’t be a factor if members of the Democratic caucus agree to let the Senate vote on the bill. Stein added that party strategists agree that “getting all caucusing members to back cloture may be the most promising legislative path forward.”

Of course it is. I’m sure readers are getting sick of seeing me talk about this all the time, but it shouldn’t even be controversial — to be a member of the caucus means letting the Senate vote on landmark Democratic legislation. It doesn’t mean every Dem has to vote for every Democratic bill; it means they at least have to let the vote happen.

My only real complaint here is that I would have preferred to see this under active discussion “every day” over the summer. Throughout the month of August, every Democratic senator could have been confronted with a simple, direct message: “Let the Senate vote on reform.”

Most of the country probably doesn’t even realize this is a problem. For the typical American, it’s probably foolish to think that the Senate could vote on a reform bill, the final vote could be 57 to 43, and the 43 would win. It’s the beauty of the “Let the Senate vote on reform” message — opponents would encourage lawmakers to vote against the bill, and supporters would do the opposite. Either way, the notion that a vote would happen should be a foregone conclusion.

We’ll see if this renewed effort goes anywhere, but I wish it had started weeks ago.