Why 60 Votes Matters: A Case Study on Today's Medicare Vote

We have had an ongoing debate on the virtue of pursuing 60 seats in the United States Senate, whether that number really matters or if it is just an excuse for not getting things done. This afternoon, just within the past few minutes, we have seen a clear reason why 60 votes matters.

A couple weeks ago, the Senate voted on legislation that would stave off greater than a 10 percent cut to doctors providing service to Medicare patients, as well as certain veterans. Although the measure passed overwhelmingly in the House -- to the tune of 355 to 59, with most Republicans voting in favor of the measure -- Republicans in the Senate decided to filibuster the bill leaving it a single vote short of attaining cloture.

Harry Reid subsequently switched his "yes" vote to a "no" in order to preserve the option of bringing the bill back to the floor for another vote -- a prerogative he made use of this afternoon. And just a few minutes ago, Senator Ted Kennedy, who has not been back to the Senate since he underwent brain surgery, made his triumphant return to the chamber to provide the Medicare bill its 60th supporter in the House.

Immediately thereafter, nine GOP Senators, all of whom had been to that point steadfastly in opposition to the bill -- even in the face of a strong push from the Democrats and a super strong push from the AMA, which has been an overwhelming supporter of the GOP in years past -- switched their position on the legislation. All of the sudden, as a result of getting a 60th vote, the bill went from having 59 to 39 support in the Senate to having 69 to 30 support -- more than enough to override a threatened veto from President Bush (assuming those Senators vote the same on an override vote as they did on the cloture vote). Not even a visit by Vice President Dick Cheney to lobby Senate Republicans could stem this movement.

This is exactly what the power of 60 is and why it is so important to strive for 60 Democratic Senators in the 111th Congress. It is why we at MyDD have set up our Road to 60 Act Blue page raising money for the candidates who will help tear down John Ensign's 41-seat firewall. When a bill or an amendment has enough support to sustain a filibuster, it is much easier for the minority party to keep in line. But once the majority can get to 60 votes -- a task made all the much more easy if the party has 60 seats, or close to it (even if not all of the members vote together on a particular issue) -- Senators in the minority are much more free to vote their conscience (or at least as the political winds are blowing) with the majority.

This is not always the case, and it will not always be the case. Having 60 Democratic Senators come January would not necessarily mean that the war would end immediately, or that universal healthcare would be easily achieved. But as you can see with today's vote on Medicare payments to doctors, 60 votes matters -- and even getting one more voice on the path to that goal can make all the difference in the world.

Tags: doctors, Medicare, Road to 60, Senate 2008, Ted Kennedy (all tags)

Comments

10 Comments

Re: Why 60 Votes Matters: A Case Study on

Jonathan, you should update the diary to mention that that "single vote" in the Senate belonged to John McCain.  Whether intentionally or otherwise (my guess is intentional), his decision to fundraise in Ohio that day sustained the initial filibuster.

by rfahey22 2008-07-09 01:29PM | 0 recs
Re: Why 60 Votes Matters: A Case Study on Today's

The democrats said in 2005 and 2006, "Oh if only we had a majority! We'd end this war and hold the white house accountable!"

Well we gave them that majority and they've still done nothing. Now it's "Oh if only we have a super majority and the Presidency, we'll do stuff then!"

So yea, color me highly skeptical and demotivated to do anything for the democrats this election.

by Yalin 2008-07-09 01:40PM | 0 recs
Re: Why 60 Votes Matters: A Case Study on Today's

And the FISA vote is a case study on why the quality of the Senators often matters a good deal more than the number of Democrats.

by Matt Stoller 2008-07-09 02:39PM | 0 recs
Re: Why 60 Votes Matters: A Case Study on Today's

You don't know me but I most always agreed with your diaries and attitude.

Good to see you here again. This place could use your anti-establishment leadership.

by Beren 2008-07-09 03:45PM | 0 recs
Re: Why 60 Votes Matters: A Case Study on Today's

Hey Jonathan, kind of topic but could you check my comments and the ratings I've gotten?

It seems new user "lara in italy" (aliveandkickin's sockpuppet) went into hundreds of my older comments and t'rated them....

I've lost my TU status.

I'm not the first person to whom this has happened. It's not the first time it's happened to me either.

Thanks.

by spacemanspiff 2008-07-09 01:48PM | 0 recs
Re: Why 60 Votes Matters: A Case Study on Today's

Sorry about the post Jonathan. Great to see you around a little more lately. Thanks to you or Jerome (whomever it was) for banning the person and helping me get my TU back. Thank you!

by spacemanspiff 2008-07-09 02:20PM | 0 recs
honestly 60 doesn't mattter much

I'm all for getting as big a majority as possible, but this 60 vote thresh-hold is a red-herring.

It won't matter one bit.

Even if Dems get 60 votes.  There is 0 (zero) percent chance they could hold all their members on a key vote.

In fact, they would probably be around 55 or 56 on most crucial votes.  You can look at the various red state dems and the independent minded dems  who will "do what they think is right for the country" and therefore thrwart the party.

The actual group of 4 or 5 dems might change on each issue but the fact is, to get a Senate-Congress that could pass a Democratic agenda without Republican obstruction it would need about:

65 dems in the senate
240 dems in the house

those are the facts

by yellowdem1129 2008-07-09 01:57PM | 0 recs
Re: honestly 60 doesn't mattter much
Yes, but you're forgetting we are electing a Democrat to the White House.
Not too many blue dogs are going to vote against their own party's president, it wouldn't bode well for their already threatened futures.
by skohayes 2008-07-09 03:55PM | 0 recs
60 is still not enough.

There are enough Democrats willing to abandon their party for 30 pieces of corporate silver at any given time that 65 is necessary to actually control the Senate for an agenda that favors people over corporations.

by Beren 2008-07-09 03:37PM | 0 recs
Re: Why 60 Votes Matters: A Case Study on Today's

It's probably a pipe dream, but another thing you could do with 60 votes: lower the number of votes you need to end a filibuster.

by Gpack3 2008-07-09 05:53PM | 0 recs

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