After Joe Lieberman laid down on the train track and actually made the train stop this week, several of other Democratic senators have taken license to threaten to withhold their vote if Harry Reid doesn’t give them what they want. Earlier this week, Sen. Roland Burris went to the floor with an impassioned speech, threatening a "no" vote unless Reid put back in something resembling a single-payer or public option. "My colleagues may have forged a compromise bill that can achieve the sixty votes that will be needed for it to pass, but until this bill addresses cost, competition, and accountability in a meaningful way—it will not win mine," he said from the lectern.
Burris, you’ll recall, is one of the junior-most senators, having landed in the Senate shrouded in suspicion after being appointed by disgraced governor Rod Blagojevich. But reputation aside, his vote is one of the 60 that Democrats need to pass a bill. And he knows that, which is why he’s vowing to turn the Democrats' 60 into 59, and not make cloture.
The only problem is that no one seems to have noticed. Burris hasn’t gotten the front page treatment granted to Lieberman this week, nor will he. Reid's staff knows Burris’s attempt at leverage is an empty one. When the final vote comes, Democrats—Burris included—will fall in line with the rest of the caucus.
That might not be the case, though, with more senior senators whose votes actually are at stake. Late Thursday, Sen. Ben Nelson amplified his demands for more clarity on abortion funding—a plea that was not only heard, but is being seriously considered by Reid’s senior staff before it makes public a final version of the bill.
To fit the occasion, an apt political cartoon might picture Reid trying to tie up 60 senators with a rope that, he suddenly realizes, is too short.