Imagine I sat you down in front a Chutes and Ladders board game. I tell you all that you need to do is get the red piece onto the finish square. You could spend half an hour rolling the dice, moving up ladders and down shoots until you get your red piece to the finish square. But you don’t need to. You could have saved yourself half an hour by just picking up the red piece and placing it on the finish square. I never said you needed to follow the made up rules to the board game.
That is what the filibuster is like in the Senate. It is not part of the Constitution. The founding fathers had no intention that a minority should be able to stop the majority from passing any law with a simple up or down vote (treaties being the one exception).
The rules for the filibuster are completely made up and have been changed repeatedly. At any time, a simple majority can just eliminate the filibuster if they really want to. Whenever the filibuster became too much of a problem, the Senate has just changed the rules. There use to be no cloture vote to stop the filibuster, so they eventually created a cloture vote requiring a two-thirds majority of members. It was later changed to a three-fifths vote when they threatened to eliminate the filibuster. Reconciliation was then created to help get around the filibuster on budget matters. The important thing here is that a majority of senators can just vote to eliminate the filibuster and pass all the bills they’d promised.
The problem is Harry Reid and his little club likes playing shoots and ladders. They enjoy the game. They are grateful that they can use the made up rules to explain why they are not delivering on their promises.
The problem is made even worse because Republicans don’t feel any need to play by these make believe rules. When Bill Frist was Senate Majority Leader, he did what he wanted to do. When a member of the caucus got out of line, he would threaten to take away their chairmanship. When he wanted to pass a bill, Frist used reconciliation if he needed to circumvent a cloture vote. If the Democrats threatened to filibuster a top priority, he would just threatened to use the “nuclear option” and get rid of the filibuster.
The only reason Reid thinks there is a problem with using reconciliation is because he is unwilling to truly go to the mat to help the people of Nevada get health care reform. He does not even need to use reconciliation. Reid can do anything with a simple majority if he were willing to give up some of his silly, made up Senate privileges.
Remember, there is nothing stopping Reid and the rest of the Senate Democrats from passing a decent health care bill with a simple majority. There is nothing stopping them from passing EFCA, or global warming legislation, nothing stopping him from repealing don’t ask don’t tell, or passing a second stimulus bill with a simple up or down vote. The Senate Democrats have to decide if keeping their fun, made up rules is more important to them than helping millions of Americans in need.