As John Judis in TNR points out; in the late 80s, the Dems sent Bush 41 plenty of popular items to veto:
...Mitchell and Foley sent Bush 36 pieces of legislation that he vetoed. These included the Family and Medical Leave Act, tax relief and urban aid (in the wake of the Los Angeles riots), extended jobless benefits (during a recession), a crime bill, the removal of a Bush administration ban on federal funding of fetal tissue research (which had been instrumental to discovering a polio vaccine), a bill removing the gag rule that forbade federally funded family planning counselors from discussing abortion, a bill regulating cable rates, and a campaign finance measure.
Sounds like a plan, right? Kevin Drum (the source of the above Judis quote) and Steve Benen point out the difference between the late 80s and now.
Unfortunately, all of these votes, as Judis acknowledges, required support from Republican moderates in order to pass. But that strategy pretty clearly won't work in today's Senate, which contains no more than half a dozen Republicans who could truly be called moderate. And even those half dozen are rarely willing to join Democrats in passing moderate legislation. The Gingrichization of the Republican Party has made moderate insubordination too costly to seriously consider.
The result is that Senate Republicans can filibuster anything they want to keep off Bush's desk, allowing through only those bills that he's willing to sign — or those in which a veto is actually helpful to the cause. Democrats simply don't have the ability to force moderate legislation to the Oval Office as veto bait.
Consider what we’ve seen the last few months when it comes to GOP obstructionism. Senate Republicans have filibustered a non-binding resolution criticizing Gonzales, a minimum-wage increase, a debate over a non-binding resolution on the war (twice), and a bill that would have led to lower prices on prescription medication. And that doesn’t even include procedural hurdles in committees. (All from the party that whined about non-existent obstructionism for six years.)
Why has Reid failed to garner moderate GOP support the way Mitchell did? Because the numbers just aren’t there. Reid has 51 members in his caucus. One of them is Joe Lieberman. Another is Tim Johnson, who has been physically unable to work. So, to break a filibuster, Reid starts with 49 votes and looks around for Republican moderates.
If we want more progress, we’ll need to give Reid more Democrats.
Let me first say that these are two bloggers I like alot especially Benen—The Carpetbagger Report is indispensible reading to me—but this is crap.
"Give Reid more Democrats?" Well, that ain't happening the rest of the time Bush is President, so that's not really a plan. And besides, it's a cop-out. The whole fucking thing is a cop-out. Drum says the Republicans "filibuster anything they want to keep off Bush's desk"? Really? I don't remember reading about any "filibusters" do you? We heard plenty about it—and how bad it was for the country—when the Democrats were in the minority, but I don't really hear much about it now. Why is that?
Because Reid isn't making the Republicans "filibuster" anything. He counts heads and has a cloture vote, which brings debate to an end artificially, and they move on to the next item. Bullshit. MAKE. THEM. ACTUALLY. FILIBUSTER. Make these assholes actually go to the podium and speak. I don't care if they argue their positions or read the phone book, make them earn it. Reid is letting them off easy with an "implied" filibuster. Fuck that.
The Republicans invested heavily in painting the filibuster as the last resort of desperate obstructionists. Make them fucking wear it. It highlights their hypocrisy, it won't win them any fans (or at least will confound and confuse) their moronic base, and puts them—and here's the important part—visibly on the wrong side of issues popular with everybody else.
The Democrats swept back into power by promising a bold new direction. Reid (and Pelosi) are ceding too much to the Republicans in Congress and Bush if they continue to let them stall and run out the clock until 2008. They may not actually be able pass any bold new initiatives with their slim majorities, but they sure as hell should look like they're trying.
"More Democrats?" Great. But first lets outfit the ones we have with some testicles.