That 60th Senate vote is proving elusive for an increasingly anxious Harry Reid and his fellow Democrats.
“WASHINGTON — In a surprise setback for Democratic leaders, Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, independent of Connecticut, said on Sunday that he would vote against the health care legislation in its current form.
The bill’s supporters had said earlier that they thought they had secured Mr. Lieberman’s agreement to go along with a compromise they worked out to overcome an impasse within the Democratic Party.
But on Sunday, Mr. Lieberman told the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, to scrap the idea of expanding Medicare and abandon any new government insurance plan or lose his vote….
A Senate Democratic aide, perplexed by Mr. Lieberman’s stance, said, “It was a total flip-flop, and leaves us in a predicament as to what to do.”
And hence the magic of that extra-constitutional 60-vote requirement. As the chart below documents, the number of cloture motions and votes — i.e., demands that the 60-vote requirement be met — have soared dramatically, creating an obstacle to legislation that the Founding Fathers never envisioned. But senators aren’t likely to change the rule because as Lieberman likes to demonstrate, it greatly enhances the power of each individual senator. And they will not support anything that undermines their position at the center of the known universe.