Chris Bowers with video (02:10):
Over the last two years, those of us engaged in legislative fights in Congress repeatedly saw the Senate either water down the decent bills passed by the House (such as the stimulus, the housing bill, health care) or just block those bills entirely (such as the energy bill, or the series of measures collectively known as the second stimulus).Howie P.S.: Not to nitpick, but most people don't think of the sausage-making as "organizing." In any case, key #4 involved Maria Cantwell:
There was, however, one time when the Senate actually passed a stronger version of a piece of major legislation than House: the financial reform bill. Even with all of the shortcomings of the financial reform bill kept in mind, passing a stronger, more progressive version of a major piece of legislation through the 60-vote threshold of the Senate is a remarkable achievement.
As such, with Republicans about to take control of the House, and see their numbers significantly increase in the Senate, it's time for a review of the tactics that allowed for this success. There are many lessons we can learn from these tactics that will be of use in all legislative fights to come.
Here were the five keys to success: MORE...
In addition to staking out a strong position at the start of negotiations, you also to have to stake out a credible one that people know actually has a chance of being included in the final legislative package. Further, you can’t threaten to withhold your vote on something without severe blowback unless that is something your base actually wants you to do. It isn’t as easy as just saying “I’m going to vote against this unless you give me a huge list of demands.”
During the financial reform fight, however, Senator Maria Cantwell showed how it was done. Cantwell voted against the financial reform bill when it first passed the Senate. However, she stayed engaged with the leadership during the whole process, making it very clear that she had specific demands around the enforcement of derivatives. She ended up receiving most of those demands in the conference committee when the Democratic leadership needed to find a couple of new votes. A Republicans who had previously supported the bill--Charles Grassley--withdrew his support during the conference. Because Cantwell had held out, and because she had specific, deliverable demands, the Democratic leadership did not have to make further concessions to Grassley. Instead, they could cave to Cantwell, and make the bill stronger in the process.