Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Lieberman to support public option filibuster

Well, you knew it was coming, and you may have heard about it already, but non-Democrat Joe Lieberman, a Democrat in occasional name only when it suits him, has announced that he will likely support an expected Republican filibuster of any health-care reform package that includes a public option:

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) said Tuesday that he'd back a GOP filibuster of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's health care reform bill.

Lieberman, who caucuses with Democrats and is positioning himself as a fiscal hawk on the issue, said he opposes any health care bill that includes a government-run insurance program -- even if it includes a provision allowing states to opt out of the program, as Reid has said the Senate bill will.

"We're trying to do too much at once," Lieberman said. "To put this government-created insurance company on top of everything else is just asking for trouble for the taxpayers, for the premium payers and for the national debt. I don't think we need it now."


Lieberman said that he'd vote against a public option plan "even with an opt-out because it still creates a whole new government entitlement program for which taxpayers will be on the line."

First, let's dispense with Lieberman's excuses. As Jonathan Chait explains at The Plank, his argument "makes no sense whatsoever. A public plan does not provide a new entitlement. It just doesn't. It's a different form of providing an entitlement. Nor is it more expensive. In fact, the stronger versions of the public plan would cost less money. Lieberman is just babbling nonsense here."

Yes, but, honestly, did we ever expect anything different from him? Again, he's not a Democrat -- not in any real sense. He used to be, but now he's an independent, and he's an independent who revels in being a thorn in Democrats' sides. Including Obama's, whom he opposed last year, campaigning vigorously, ferociously for John McCain, his old friend and close pal, smearing Obama all along the way. As I put it back in June, when Lieberman came out against the public option:

Joe Lieberman, non-Democrat, is always just in it for himself, isn't he? He's with McCain and the Republicans before the '08 election, campaigning vigorously against Obama, then he's with Obama, if not so much with the Democrats, whom he formally rejected following his primary loss to Ned Lamont (becoming an "independent"), when Obama wins and the Republicans are reduced to an extremist minority with little hope of reaquiring power anytime soon. Indeed, he only crawled back to the Democrats after the election, and kissed up to Obama with effusive praise, so effusive as to suggest phoniness, pandering to the president's immense popularity, in order to secure himself a leadership position in the Senate.

He was wrong then, and he's wrong now. And I'm not just talking about his opinions, I'm talking about his facts.

Apparently, it was Obama himself who pushed for Lieberman to stay in the party, to remain in caucus and even be given a chairmanship, back in November of last year, shortly after the election. While I understand that Obama wanted to let bygones be bygones -- partly (perhaps) to present himself as a good winner with bipartisan aspirations and broad appeal, partly (likely) because every vote counts, and he knew he would need Lieberman's vote eventually -- and while I understand that Senate Democrats were counting heads in hopes of securing 60 votes, I thought then that Lieberman should have been given the boot.

I wrote: "The Senate Democrats are 'making a mistake they're likely to regret,' argues Steve Benen, and I tend to agree." Well, the chickens have come home to roost, as they say.

Lieberman may ultimately vote for some watered down bill, as Chait suggests, but "if he has the chance to stick in the knife and kill health care reform, I think he'd probably jump at the chance." Yes, probably. He represents the Insurance State, after all, but, as much as that, he's still essentially a pro-McCain Republican, however he may caucus. He won't side with the Republicans no matter what, and so he likely won't back a Republican filibuster of any reform package, but he also has zero loyalty either to his former party or to the president, who went out on a limb for him despite what had happened during the campaign.

For now, Lieberman is "strongly inclined" to support a Republican filibuster of any bill with a public option, but we know what that means. He's threatening to push his weight around, a single vote that could make all the difference, a single vote that ultimately could deny Democrats the 60 votes they would need to break a filibuster, and he wants reform either to be crafted according to his wishes or to be obstructed to the point where nothing meaningful is done at all, with the added benefit, to him, of the Democratic Party splintering.

And it doesn't help that Harry Reid, full of it, is actually giving Lieberman the benefit of the doubt, at least in public. Have Democrats honestly learned nothing at all from the whole Lieberman saga?

(Check out all the reaction at Memeorandum.)

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share


Post a Comment

<< Home