Susie at Crooks and Liars links to this Ezra Klein piece in which he explains that Chuck Grassley is sandbagging health care because his fellow GOP Senators are threatening to deny him his preferred committee assignments if he doesn't. She asks:
Why are we negotiating with Republicans at all?
That's a good question. But it raises another one: why aren't the Democrats doing the same thing?
In a world in which you had two parties negotiating in good faith for a common goal, bipartisanship was certainly possible. In one in which one party is committed to obstructing the other's agenda no matter what, even to the extent that they will punish their own members who cooperate, it's unilateral disarmament for the other party to allow their own members to play by the old rules. It's quite obvious that if Reid (and Obama) wanted to put an end to this nonsense, they would threaten their own members with the same thing. (Certainly, they would require them to shut down the filibuster, even if they let them vote against the plan.)
This is, of course, assuming the Democrats actually want to pass their own agenda. If they don't, this behavior is merely political malpractice, whereby they allow themselves to be trapped into opposing their own initiatives and being blamed for their failure. In this case, you get crappy health care reform and look like a bunch of sell-out losers in the eyes of the American people. Heads you lose, tails they win.
I've always said that the Republicans are an extremely effective opposition party and manage to advance their agenda even when they don't have institutional power, but this is ridiculous. If this works, they will never have to work to win another election --- the corporate Democrats will do their dirty work for them and they can just sit on the sidelines lobbing tea bags until it becomes clear to the American people that no matter how bad the Republicans are, they can't possibly be as lame as the Democrats.