Rarely have Senate Democrats been so calm about losing a vote. And thats what it looks like will happen in Mondays showdown with Republicans over financial regulatory reform.
Still, Democrats are bringing with them several game plans to ensure that no matter the outcome, they emerge with the advantage.
With continued uncertainty about whether they can avoid a filibuster of the measure, Democrats said they are prepared to either excoriate Republicans for blocking needed Wall Street reforms or hold hands with them around a compromise bill heading into a two- to three-week floor debate.
Though staffers for Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and ranking member Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) worked through the weekend to finalize a bipartisan deal, both Senators indicated Sunday that they would not likely have an agreement before Monday's 5 p.m vote.
I think were closer than weve ever been, Shelby said Sunday on NBCs Meet the Press. Will we get a bill by tomorrow? I doubt it. Dodd echoed that sentiment, saying, In the next few days weeks well get it together. Maybe even tomorrow.
The 59-Member Democratic Conference needs at least one Republican to come aboard to limit debate on the motion to proceed to the bill. That motion would allow the Senate to begin formally debating the overhaul.
Democrats are betting that all 41 Republicans wont be able to stand the promised heat they'll get for opposing the debate. But Shelby said that without an agreement with Dodd, Republicans were united in opposition.
The Democrats will not get cloture, Shelby said. But well continue to work.
Democrats were unfazed.
Were unafraid of pushing ahead because even if we are on a collision course to having that vote without a deal, it just gets us onto a bill, one senior Senate Democratic aide said. Even if they do [filibuster] and the political chips fall where they may, we think we end up on the better end of that situation.
Another Senate Democratic aide said Democrats are approaching the vote as heads we win, tails you lose.
Even if Dodd and Shelby come to an agreement by Monday, it is unclear whether a deal in principle would be enough to secure the 60 votes needed to move forward.
If Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) beats back the threatened filibuster, aides said another vote on the issue could occur as soon as Wednesday or Thursday. Democrats are calculating that they will be able to dominate the news cycle and that Republicans will feel pressure by then to change their votes.
You can expect the Democratic leadership to allow Republicans to suffer the slings and arrows of the media for a few days, another senior Senate Democratic aide said. If this vote fails, these [Republicans] are going to get pounded.
The aide cautioned that the timing of any revote would depend on the status of the Dodd-Shelby talks.
Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) expressed confidence Thursday that if Democrats lose the first vote, they will be able to win the second.