I'm puzzled as to why Harry Reid didn't plan for and insist on a cloture vote on the Elena Kagan nomination.
For Democrats, a cloture vote would have been easy enough; there's no possible political cost to voting yes on cloture for something that you're happy enough to support on a final vote (and Ben Nelson announced right away that he'd vote for cloture, so there's no real extra cost for actually doing it). For Republicans, however, a cloture vote would be at least somewhat difficult. Republicans are pretending that there was no filibuster against Kagan. In reality, of course, there was a filibuster, because Republicans (by insisting on 60 votes) have filibustered absolutely every single bill and nomination during this Congress. That really wouldn't change if Republicans, not having the votes to block Kagan, voted in favor of cloture and therefore the principle they claim to support that judicial nominations should not be filibustered. However, a vote for cloture would be dangerous for Republican Senators, running the risk of attacks from Tea Partiers and others who want maximum resistance at all points, whether or not it would make any difference.
So why no cloture vote? I really don't know. There may be some procedural reason...I know that multiple cloture petitions can ripen at the same time, but while I have a fair understanding of Senate rules and procedures, I'm certainly not an expert on all the details, and there may be some obscure parliamentary reason why forcing a cloture vote would hurt Democratic efforts to get things done before the August recess (see, for example, here, although I'm not sure it would have been an obstacle to an affirmative plan by the Democrats to hold a cloture vote). It could have been part of a deal with the Republicans for some procedural concession. But it sure seems to me that Reid could have put a few Republicans in a tough spot on this one.
More generally, it does seem to me that one of the useful things that Democrats can do right now, given the descent into crazy by a fair-sized portion of the GOP, is to force more tough votes on Republican Members of Congress. Perhaps we need a roll-call vote on whether to congratulate Barack Obama on the occasion of his birthday. Or a resolution establishing National Bike Path Week.