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If you go back to the earlier part of this decade when the cloture/filibuster issue became a big deal, largely on the Supreme Court nominations front, the right made a big push on the outside about the issue of allowing up or down votes (i.e., 51 vote majorities) simply as a matter of principle. That is perhaps implicit in the current debate. But it's very, very implicit. Pressing that issue earlier in this decade opened up a part of this debate that's really pretty absent at the moment. In essence, it opened up another front in a legislative battle that wasn't tied to the particular policy or legislative issue at stake.
Why that didn't happen or perhaps why it still couldn't happen is a pretty good question I haven't seen a good answer to.