One of the ways the administration tried to jam its PhRMA deal/Aetna bailout on the country was forcing a series of false choices onto the debate. Those who opposed this corrupt hijacking of the democratic process were told that the reality was, you gotta have 60 votes in the Senate. And Lieberman, Landrieu, Nelson and Lincoln stood firm, so you had to give them what they wanted.

It was that or nothing. What can you do? We now hear “If only we didn’t have the filibuster” as frequently as we heard “if only we had 60 votes” when the Democrats didn’t own the war.

And now, we find out something that may surprise many (though probably not anyone who has watched politics for more than 6 months): it was all bullshit.

Part of the negotiations center on whether Reid can provide an ironclad guarantee that the Senate will not leave the House in the lurch, aides said. If the House agrees to pass the Senate bill with a companion measure — or a “cleanup” bill — to make fixes, they want to know that the Senate will indeed pass it, too.

There was some talk among Senate leadership on Thursday of putting together a letter signed by 51 Democratic senators pledging to pass a cleanup bill if the House would pass the Senate bill. But that effort fizzled when support for it didn’t materialize, insiders said.

“The Senate moderates’ viewpoint is, ‘We passed our bill. We’re not going to spend three weeks on some other bill,’” said a Democratic lobbyist who represents clients pushing for reform.

So how many “moderates” are there now?

The 60 vote bar was always crap. Now that it only takes 51 votes to pass a public option (which the OpenLeft whip count says they have), they can’t clear that either. It’s all about kabuki — who gets to feign support for publicly popular legislation vs. who gets to take credit for bashing the hippies and killing it. The White House wants what it wants, and the Senate — largely insulated from the electoral consequences of the bill — is totally willing to sacrifice those in the House who are much more vulnerable in order to give it to them.

Now the apologists are peddling the “it’s this or nothing” false choice about a bill that won’t even kick in for the next four years, as if their “60 vote” myth didn’t just explode. How is it suddenly Raul Grijalva’s fault if he stands firm and won’t accept a hideous bill crafted on the imperative of getting Joe Lieberman’s vote, which isn’t necessary any more?

Meet 51: it’s the new 60.

Tell the House Progressives to stand firm: keep your word and vote “no” on the Senate bill.