Democrats are obviously having problems framing the issues in the ongoing debate about the stimulus package. The bill is now in the Senate, and Republicans are using the leverage of a filibuster (or, technically, a cloture vote) to tear the bill apart and rebuild it to their liking. So it's time to steal a page from their playbook: demand an "up or down" vote.
The thing about this phrase is that it sounds eminently fair to most Americans. The intricacies of the parliamentary procedures in the Senate aren't easy to understand, but the core (small "d") democratic principle of a vote in which the majority wins is. That's why Republicans used it so effectively over the past few years. Here are but a handful of examples:
"...give the president's judicial nominees an up-or-down vote."
Mitch McConnell, 11/18/06
"I am deeply disappointed that a handful of United States senators prevented Ambassador Bolton from receiving the up-or-down vote he deserved in the Senate"
George Bush, 12/6/06
"What is out of the mainstream is the denial for United States senators to be given a up-or-down vote opportunity"
Bill Frist, 5/19/05
"The Senate has a duty to give this nominee fair treatment, a fair hearing and a fair up-or-down vote."
Dick Cheney, 8/15/05
It was such an oft-repeated talking point for the Republicans that you could probably hunt down pretty much any Republican by name and find a quote from them calling for such an "up or down vote." Throw these quotes back in their face, and drive the point home over and over again to the media:
"All we are asking for is an up-or-down vote on the president's stimulus package. Republicans can offer amendments for their ideas, and they will get the same up-or-down vote. But at the end of the day, we want a straight up-or-down vote on the bill, because we are wasting time here in Washington while good Americans are losing their jobs. An up-or-down vote is only fair."
Is this disingenuous? Perhaps. But Democrats, so far, have done such a horrible job of making their case for the bill that maybe it's time to do a little rabble-rousing. Harry Reid has been all but absent from the debate, and Obama's attempt to cheerlead for his recovery plan was overshadowed yesterday by the whole Tom Daschle problem.
So maybe it's time to simplify. Start screaming for an up-or-down vote every chance you get while being interviewed, and maybe you can sway public opinion a bit back to your side. The Republicans have been having a field day on the airwaves nitpicking the plan to death, so some sort of response is needed.
Luckily, Republicans themselves have shown how to effectively do this -- by demanding an up-or-down vote.
Cross-posted at The Huffington Post
-- Chris Weigant