As we witness the reflex response of the Republican Congressional delegation to the tea partiers--their proverbial energized base, whether controllable within the GOP or not--a certain grim defeatism is evident in these Republican legislators. Getting a rise out of these "constituents" has limited rewards and hardly appears to be energizing to Congressional Republicans themselves. We see this clearly in the way they threw in the towel so quickly during the healthcare reform budget reconciliation proceedings. Republicans could have extended those proceedings for days, tying up the Democrats in a high-profile last stand. When finally some minor provisions were found that required sending the bill back to the House, the Democrats realized this was nothing more than a blip and got the House to approve the fixes within twenty-four hours. The Republicans could have kept beating on the Democrats and holding the package hostage in the Senate, rather than clearing it for return to the House. Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) admitted that he had dozens of amendments in his pocket yet planned to offer only two or three. Other GOP senators were surely as well stocked with amendments and other obstructions and obviously chose to follow DeMint's course rather than launch most of these parliamentary projectiles. Alas, budget reconciliation--something that threatened the very foundations of the Republic in the GOP rhetoric of only a day or two earlier--proved to be but a footnote.
Until now, I have been dismissive of the argument that the best way for the Democrats to deal with the Senate filibuster issue is simply to insist that a filibuster be played in front of the public, rather than serve as a pre-emptive threat that kills debate before it starts. However, it now seems an excellent idea just to call the GOP's bluff and force them to filibuster, if they say they will. It appears that after about twenty-four hours of actual obstructionism, rather than playing just the threat of it, that the Republicans will get tired of this act. Their hearts just do not appear to be in it. Public ridicule of any ongoing filibuster, including well-chosen statements from the White House, could probably end filibusters fairly quickly and prove a very effective strategy for the Democrats. They just have to show enough resolve to sit through some of the unpleasantness so that they can turn it to their advantage.