Majority rule on Bernanke?

MAJORITY RULE ON BERNANKE?…. There’s an ongoing head-count underway on whether the Senate will allow Ben Bernanke to stay on as chairman of the Federal Reserve. By most estimates, supporters outnumber opponents, but those planning to vote “aye” still aren’t close to 60 votes.

Except, as Ryan Grim reported today, supporters apparently won’t need 60 votes.

When it comes to progressive priorities in the Senate, there’s one standard: 60 votes are needed. But for Ben Bernanke, there’s a second standard: 50 will be just fine, thank you.

Democratic leaders in the Senate are asking colleagues who are reluctant to support Bernanke’s nomination for a second term as Federal Reserve chairman to nevertheless vote with them to end a filibuster and allow a vote on the actual nomination. The reluctant members would then be free to vote no to express their displeasure. Several Democrats have committed to just that and others are considering it. […]

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) told reporters on Monday afternoon after a meeting with Bernanke that some opponents of the chairman had pledged to support him on the first vote, but not on the second.

Oh, I see. Senators believe Bernanke should get an up-or-down vote in the Senate, and that there should be majority rule — on this nomination.

Asked why senators would agree to majority rule on Bernanke but no on health care reform, Durbin replied, “I don’t know. That’s a good question.”

If only there was a good answer. There’s no reason in the world there should be one Senate standard for a vote on Bernanke confirmation and an entirely different Senate standard for votes on the entire policy agenda of the 111th Congress.

Matt Yglesias had a good item on how maddening this is: “This is just a depressing reminder that if Senate Democrats were even remotely serious about governing the country they would have adopted a ‘vote with the leadership on cloture’ policy as a standard principle. They refused to do so out of a selfish concern for their own petty power, but by doing so ironically created a situation in which it’s been impossible for them to accomplish anything — including effective economic recovery — and now all their seats are endangered. Think how much better off they’d be, for example, if a larger stimulus had passed but with five or six vulnerable members able to ‘break with their party’ and vote no.”