The stunning victory of Republican Scott Brown in Massachusetts leaves one unassailable truth. The Democrats no longer have a filibuster-proof majority in the United States Senate. According to all of the pundits, this means health care reform is dead since the Republicans will filibuster it into oblivion. This need not be true.
While it is true that the Republicans have shown an inclination towards bipartisanship and seem only intent on derailing health care and stopping President Obama's agenda, Democrats need to remember it only takes 51 Senators to pass a bill. The majority of Americans support health care reform and there are over 40 million Americans without health care. This is a large voting bloc. If the Republicans filibuster, Democrats must seize the debate so Americans see what they are doing as against the interest of the country.
The Republicans know how to manipulate the debate and showed this repeatedly during the Bush Administration. Most pointedly this happened during the debate over the Department of Homeland Security. Both parties supported the creation of the Department, but the Democrats wanted to protect the rights of workers, while the Republicans wanted to strip those rights. The Republican spin machine made out those who supported the Democratic position as unpatriotic and soft on terror. This was most prevalent in the Georgia Senate race where Saxby Chambliss ran ads comparing triple amputee and war hero Max Cleland to Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein and won the election despite these outrageous lies.
It is OK to challenge the Republicans to filibuster if the Democrats are up to the challenge. President Obama should go strongly on record calling for an up or down vote as President Bush always seemed to do. Not only will the Republicans will be holding up health care with their filibuster, but they will be holding up a number of other bills that Americans care about. Going back to the Clinton Administration, when Republicans overplayed their hand and threatened to shut down government their popularity sunk and it started Clinton's comeback. If they filibuster health care they will be overplaying their hand in the same way. Democrats should come up with a health care bill that reflects the principles of our party and push for it and stand up against the filibuster. Getting results was never going to be easy and we need to fight hard. With the right strategy the filibuster can be stopped and Democrats can get the 51 votes to pass the health care reform Americans need.