It's done. The Senate has started debate. Well, I guess if you are Harry Reid, and you believe that you have the right to spend taxpayer money in order to buy enough votes, then you can get it done. But, come on, $300 million just to secure Landrieu's one vote - and she's proud of it? Here's WaPo's description of Reid's reliance upon "Southern Sweeteners":
"It was an awkward moment (not least because her figure is 20 times the original Louisiana Purchase price).
But it was fairly representative of a Senate debate that seems to be scripted in the Southern Gothic style. The plot was gripping -- the bill survived Saturday's procedural test without a single vote to spare -- and it brought out the rank partisanship, the self-absorption and all the other pathologies of modern politics. If that wasn't enough of a Tennessee Williams story line, the debate even had, playing the lead role, a Southerner named Blanche with a flair for the dramatic."
Here's Byron York with a great question: "Why was it so hard for Dems even to start health care debate?"
"The extraordinary thing about the dramatic events surrounding the health care bill in the Senate is that there was any drama at all. Lawmakers were simply voting to begin debate on the Democratic version of health care reform. Just begin debate -- not end it, and not move on to a final vote.
If Democrats, with a 60-vote majority in the Senate, had not been able to begin debate on the top Democratic policy priority in a generation -- well, that would have been a devastating turn of events, both for the party and for President Obama. And yet just starting debate proved difficult, and only on the last day did the 60th Democratic vote fall in place in favor of beginning the process."
Let's remember: This ain't over yet. Next stop - cloture. Now that Reid got it started, can he end the debate?
UPDATED: Professor Jacobson observes that Mary Landrieu should make Edwin Edwards proud!
And here's Larry Sabato's take on cloture - unfortunately it's not good. The takeaway: elections matter - more than the opposition's rallies, demonstrations and protest letters. Sigh.
UPDATED: A great question from TN in the comments section over at Le-gal In-sur-rec-tion:
"Did the CBO estimate include Harry Reid's vote buying spree? Is there anyone who still believes this phony HR Bill will reduce the deficit when this is already the cost of just 'starting the debate'?"