Matthew Yglesias is much to kind to Senator Conrad
Conrad argues the house better do what he wants in the confererence committee because it is hard to get to 60 votes in the senate. Yglesias says this is because of Senators like Conrad. If fact it is because of Senator Conrad himself -- one senator who can decide if the Senate operates by majority rule who decided that it shall not do so this time.
Very true about Senator Conrad. In fact you understate the case. He and he alone is the one most to blame for the failure of the senate to function democratically this time.
It is possible for 50 senators (plus Biden) to pass bill given current rules using the budget reconciliation process. Bloggers to your left argue that some progressive senator should vote against cloture to force Obama or Reid or someone to use reconciliation.
It's not Obama's call. It's not Reid's call. It's Conrad's call. Under Senate budget reconciliation rules must be reported out by the budget committee. The budget committee chairman can, if he chooses, block the process by not scheduling the vote on reporting out. Senator Conrad is that chairman.
Now, maybe Harkin (chairman of HELP) could try to run around Conrad by saying that Finance has sole responsibility (I'm not sure this is even allowed). But to report a bill out of Finance takes 13 votes and one of the 14 Democrats is Senator Conrad.
Recall that Reid said he would pass health care reform by any means necessary. Then he choose to pass it by negotiating with Nelson and Lieberman. I guess he was bluffing. I also guess that Conrad called his bluff.
In this case the bill needs 60 votes in the Senate exactly because Senator Conrad has decided that it be so. Note that he was the one in the Baucus caucus who kept arguing against the public option on the grounds that it couldn't get 60 votes.