President Bush said opponents hadn't read the bill, when diligent bloggers combed through it line by line. They gave the bill the markup -- the detailed process of amendment -- that it never got in committee because there was such a rush to passage. Even the procedural shenanigans that the bill's supporters relied on to try to get it through were subject to the intense glare of publicity. Instead of helping the bill's cause -- as such arcane maneuvers would have in the past -- they hurt it by adding to the sense of chaos and unfairness around the process.
Once, the Senate leadership would have been able to lean on members opposed to the bill to do a dishonest two-step to pass it. First, vote for cloture to end debate over the bill, which requires 60 votes and was the toughest hurdle. Then, vote against it on final passage, which takes only 50 votes -- so there would be more wiggle room for "no" votes. This way, the Senate leadership would have gotten its bill, and senators opposed to it could tell constituents back home that they had voted against it. But bloggers and talk-radio hosts blocked that dodge by sending up a cry, "A vote for cloture is a vote for amnesty."
In the end, support for the bill literally collapsed. Even the imperious Voinovich voted against cloture. Now, there is really no such thing as an "inside game" anymore, since bloggers make sure it gets "outside." Both the right and the left will take advantage of this, for good and ill policy ends. But it's clearly an enhancement of democracy. Senators should get used to it, and buy more phone lines.
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