Will People-Power Defeat the Insurance Lobby This Time Around?
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Until recently, filibusters were unusual. It was standard practice for a senator to support cloture - allowing a piece of legislation to come up for a vote - but then to vote against the bill itself. Filibusters were reserved for extraordinary issues that members of the Senate felt were especially important.
Currently, Democrats have 60 seats in the Senate. This means that the party just needs its members to allow the central piece of its president's legislative agenda to come to a vote. That should not require too much party discipline; after all, the senators could still vote against the bill itself.
It's too early to know if this "no filibuster" path will succeed, but the fact that a public plan is still in the mix is a testament to the ability of grassroots activists to move the national political agenda. The political insiders will do their best to deny it, but political pressure from the masses can and does make a difference. It has made a difference in the debate over health care and it can make a difference in other areas. Let's see what a little grassroots activism can do for the Wall Street banks.
Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research.