As we've been reporting, Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid is demanding an end to efforts to woo fence-sitting Republicans in to supporting a watered-down health care reform legislation. But that will likely alienate just about the entire GOP, and require Democrats to stand united against a filibuster if a bill is to pass through regular order.
So, I suppose it should come as no surprise that, Senate leaders are now asking members of the Democratic caucus to vote party-line on procedural issues, reversing the stance they took on caucus unity just last week.
Predictably, conservative Democrats are publicly balking at the suggestion. Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) told Roll Call "I'm not a closed mind on cloture, but if it's an abuse of procedure, if it's somebody trying to put a poison pill into a bill, or if it's something that would be pre-emptive of Nebraska law, or something that rises to extraordinary circumstances, then I've always reserved the right to vote against cloture."
And Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA)--a stickler when it comes to the public option and, an outright opponent of climate change legislation--said "I'm going to keep an open mind, but I am not committing to any procedural straitjackets one way or another," she said.
But for his part, Reid is actually putting himself on the line. "On procedural votes," he predicted, "we'll keep Democrats together." That's a fairly dramatic about face from the position he held just last week, after it became clear that Al Franken would be coming to Washington. "We have 60 votes on paper," Reid said. "But we cannot bulldoze anybody; it doesn't work that way. My caucus doesn't allow it. And we have a very diverse group of senators philosophically. I am not this morning suddenly flexing my muscles."