When health care reform was teetering on the brink of extinction (following Senator Scott Brown's victory in Massachusetts), I noted that President George W. Bush managed to get pretty much everything he wanted even though Republicans never had more than 55 Senate seats during his Presidency. Heck, he got us to go to war against Iraq, on the ground that terrorists from other countries had attacked us, when the Republicans were a minority in the Senate.
How did he do it? Well, for one thing, when Bush wanted something, you sure knew what it was, and he mentioned it every day. He talked things up until there was so much political pressure on Democrats that they had to vote for it.
President Obama is now making better use of political pressure on Republicans. Just ten days ago, all 41 Senate Republicans signed a letter opposing financial reform. Then President Obama went on the attack, pointing out that Wall Street's failure of responsbility led to the financial crisis. Democrats started painting Republicans as being on the side of big bankers and against ordinary Americans.
What do you know, suddenly the reports were that a deal was close on financial reform. There is still some doubt as to whether there are enough votes to start debate today, but even Republicans are "hopeful" that a deal can be reached.
That's the way to get stuff done. Neither party can get its entire membership to stand in the way of something really popular. The Democrats just need to create enough popular pressure to break off one Republican vote, and they can defeat a filibuster.