Today the Senate voted on an amendment by Byron Dorgan and Chuck Grassley to make the appalling farm bill slightly less bad (the effort to make it significantly less bad having already failed, garnering only 37 votes). The Dorgan/Grassley amendment got 56 votes--and so, of course, it failed also, since in typical Senate fashion it needed 60 to pass. (It should be noted, by the way, that while it was a bipartisan group who voted down the amendment, only 12 Democrats voted the wrong way, while 31 Republicans voted for a bill that would make Milton Friedman vomit in terror. Draw your own conclusions about which party actually believes in free markets.)
But OK, fine, the good guys failed to get 60 votes; that's the way the Senate works, and I'm sympathetic to the philosophical case for the filibuster. But the farm-bill reformers have to be willing to play this game too. Of the 56 senators who voted for a more rational farm policy, at least 41 should be willing to filibuster the actual farm bill unless some changes are made to it. Things don't work if only one side is willing to use its leverage to the fullest. Between non-farm states and (God forbid) senators who actually care about good policy, I would hope there are at least 41 senators sick of being held hostage. Not that I'm optimistic.