In all the debate over public opinion polls, town hall protests, and “bipartisanship” (or the lack thereof), not to mention the complex details of this or that plan, it is easy to forget that the key obstacle to enactment of health care reform remains the threat of a filibuster in the Senate. Since 60 votes are required to “invoke cloture” and proceed to a vote, the White House strategy on health reform has oscillated between efforts to pull a few Senate Republicans across the line (shoring up “centrist” Democrats as a byproduct) to get to 60, and schemes to use budget reconciliation procedures, which prohibit filibusters.

This latter possibility has aroused dire threats of Armageddon from conservatives, most notably from New York Times columnist David Brooks, who said use of reconciliation for health reform would be “suicidal,” and would “permanently alienate independents.” Brooks cleverly conflated public misgivings about health reform with support for a filibuster, and equated a simple majority vote with an effort to “ram health care through” Congress. There is zero evidence at this point that voters are versed in the intricacies of Senate procedure, or cherish the right of 41 senators to dictate national policy.

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