A year into the administration, after the teabagging parties and record numbers of filibusters, senior Obama advisor Axelrod finally used the magic words:
The American people … all they want is an up or down vote.
“Up or down vote” is the framing used by Republicans to break the last filibuster crisis, a fight over judicial nominations shortly before Republicans lost control of the Senate. Most Americans don’t know what a filibuster is, or why some Senate votes take 60 yeas and some require a simple majority. Traditionally, the filibuster was used to bide for time, and as a show of intense feeling about legislation. In recent years (largely under Republican Senates), it has been used to change the Senate from a majoritarian body to one requiring a supermajority to act at all.
Talking about an “up or down vote” makes it clear what’s at stake. A senator can vote to end debate on a bill or nomination without wanting the bill to pass. Agree that the debate has run its course, then let the votes fall where they may in a simple up or down vote. And let Republicans choke on their own words.