The Republicans do this the right way. The Senate Republican caucus is organized, like the House caucuses of both parties, like a partisan political organization whose objective is to advance the shared policy objectives of the party. The Senate Democratic caucus, by contrast, is organized like a fun country club trying to recruit members*. Join Team Democrat and Vote However You Want Without Consequence! But it’s no way to get things done.Except...which party had 100% loyalty (even Lieberman!) on the stimulus bill? Which party had three defections on that bill -- and one of those defectors wound up switching to the party without the inclination to deny members seniority. Now, which party had 100% loyalty on the final committee votes in Senate Finance and HELP? Which one had, again, a defection?
Now, granted, it's a bit more complicated than that (ain't it always?). If Democrats really had total loyalty, with everyone going along with the majority-of-the-majority, then they would be passing -- they would have already passed -- a bill that liberals would like a lot more than they'll like the "negotiate with #60" bill that's on it's way. But then there's that pesky little asterisk in the quote from Yglesias above:
* Speaking of which, it’s interesting to speculate under which circumstances Senator Snowe might switch parties.Yes, it is, and part of the reason it might happen is if Snowe really does get penalized by the Republicans. Moreover, if the Democrats had removed Joe Lieberman from his committee position, he'd probably be caucusing with the Republicans today and be a clear no vote on health care instead of an annoying problem, as he is now (yeah, he says he's a no, but he's almost certainly just negotiating at this point). Ben Nelson, too, and perhaps one or two others, could easily switch if the Democrats pressure them too much.
The last point here is that it's not at all clear that committee positions, or other internal Congressional sanctions are all that big a deal anyway in the Senate (although in the House, committee and subcommittee positions are without doubt a major factor). Of the things that parties can give Senators: positions within the Senate, campaign funding for their next election, and clearing out or encouraging primary election challenges -- I would say that positions within the Senate are a poor third. So, given that, it is certainly possible that the Democrats have been successful because they have done a good job wielding electoral weapons.