Since each Senator and each Representative is a law unto himself (the state and national parites have very little influence on the nomination process and ea h legislator runs his own machine), there has never been before this a unanimous party position on anything that was binding on the members. This is a brand-new phenomenum. The Republicans have decided that, as a party, they will oppose Obama on nearly everything. And woe betide a mamber who does not follow along. This is the meaning of that election in NY State in which a moderate was defeated by an extreme right candidate who proceeded to lose the general election. But make no mistake. It was a victory for the extreme right. They won the primary and that was their goal. One more seat in the house was pretty near meaningless but as an object lesson to any moderates who remain the Republican party.
Many years ago (over 50), I took a polisci course in college and the professsor, who had recently come from Oregon as a PhD student of Richard Neuberger, told us that for any political group, winning the primary was the first goal. For one thing, any patronage that came to that party would pass through the primary winner even if he lost the general election.
How will this play out? Hard to say, but here is one possible scenario. The president of the Senate could simply rule that unlimited debate was out of order. Ironically, the president of the Senate is Joe Biden who is a one-man unlimited debate. This was threatened (they called it the nuclrea option) when a number of Democrats threatened to filibuster to prevent John Roberts’s appointment to the Supreme Court. But some compromise was reached and Roberts was confirmed.
If this happened, all hell would break loose. The cibservative blogosphere would go into orbit and newspapers all over the country would editorialze about the loss of sacred tradition. I am unaware of a representative assembly anywhere in the world that lacks a mechanism whereby a majority can pass any law it likes. Yes, it might be declared unconstitutional, but that is another matter. Obviously the ruling would be appealed and then it would come down to whether more than ten Democrats would vote agains the chair. But I am sure that that would have been known beforehand. And the right to filibuster could disappear, poof, just like that. I suppose that there could be an appeal based on the constitutional right of each body to make its own rules. But it is not that this would be a case of the Senate not making its own rules. Very messy. It could not be kept secret (no more than the Republican plan was) The most likely outcome is that the Republican leadership, seeing the handwriting on the wall, would actually make a compromise to see the health plan pass.
In Canada (where I have lived over 40 years), the govenment in power determines completely how much debate is allowed on any bill and, in fact, how much the minority parties can speak in parliament. Virtually all voting is on straight party lines. The party leader must approve each candidate that runs under the party banner and and can and sometimes does replace a candidate by another of his choosing, not giving any reason. I think they could save a lot of money by choosing seats without filling them with actual people. Immobile robots (capable os signaling aye or nay) could fulfill all the functions of most MPs.