Monday, December 14, 2009

Holding health-care reform hostage: Lieberman and Nelson

I'm with Josh Marshall:

It's starting to seem like it may just be better for Dems to try to make a deal with Olympia Snowe, kick Joe Lieberman out of the party and be done with it. The leadership in the senate thought that Lieberman was on board with the latest compromise. But in an appearance on Face the Nation and later in a sit-down with Sen. Reid, Lieberman said he'd join the Republican filibuster if the Medicare buy-in remained in the bill.

What's most telling about Lieberman isn't his positions, which are not that much different from Sen. Nelson's and perhaps Sen. Lincoln's. It's more that he seems to keep upping the ante just when the rest of the caucus thinks they've got a deal.

If it happened once, a misunderstanding might be a credible explanation. But it's happened too many times. Sen. Nelson has driven Dems to distraction on this bill. But his demands have been fairly consistent over time. Lieberman just doesn't seem to be negotiating in good faith. He keeps pulling his caucus to some new compromise, waiting a few days and then saying he can't agree to that either.

It's coming to a breaking point.

I'd say it's already there. As I wrote on Friday: "There's just no pleasing Lieberman, is there? It doesn't matter how much you give in, he always wants more... and more... and more... At some point, Democrats have to say that enough is enough. Try to get the two Maine Republicans, Nelson, or just two of the three, and let Lieberman rot with the Republicans as historic health-care reform is passed.

That point is now.

Both Lieberman and Ben Nelson came out yesterday against the Medicare buy-in for those aged 55 to 64 that is a key element of the compromise deal the Democrats have worked out in the Senate. "I'm concerned that it's the forerunner of single payer, the ultimate single-payer plan, maybe even more directly than the public option," said Nelson. I'd like to see the U.S. adopt a single-payer system, but come on. We're talking about a compromise here, not the thin end of the wedge. It's like Nelson and Lieberman don't want to give in at all, on any point, and like they don't get the whole idea of compromising.

Should we be surprised? Of course not. Here's Digby on Lieberman:

When Reid said "Joe Lieberman is the least of my problems" he was waving a red flag in his face. It's all about him. And he will not be ignored. And he will not vote for anything that liberals want, period. I don't know why they thought it would be any different. He's a sanctimonious, petty, vindictive egomaniac. But then, he always has been.

Love him or hate him, Mr. Lieberman is schooling both Pres. Obama and Sen. Reid, making a mockery of the Democratic majority, not worried about anything, as he’s already taken on the activist base and beat them too... Ah yes, Joe Lieberman using his power once again to throttle the Democratic majority while hijacking the agenda. Why not? He has already learned that there will be no consequences for doing so.

And Democrats really have no one to blame but themselves.

Nothing Lieberman is doing would be possible without the ongoing support of the majority of the Democratic caucus. If Democratic Senators wanted to punish Lieberman for his consistent transgressions against the party, they could. If Democrats wanted to use reconciliation, and just circumvent him altogether, they could do that to. But they are not going to do either.

As such, Lieberman is simply taking the power that is being handed to him by the rest of the caucus. Since he knows that Senate Democrats won't ever punish him, and won't ever circumvent him, he now has free reign to dictate whatever legislation he wants, get tons of face time with the White House and Senate leadership, regularly be the top story on news outlets around the country, receive millions in campaign contributions, and appease his Republican base (at this point, most of Lieberman's supporters are Republicans).

Don't Democrats have a significant majority in the Senate? Isn't it about time they pushed back? Isn't it about time they showed some courage and determination? Sure, they risk falling below 60 votes, but they could still work on Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, the two Maine senators. And, of course, they could, and should, consider reconciliation.

But what exactly do they risk?

I've been trying to reconcile myself to a reform package that will likely fall far short of what I'd prefer (which is a bill with a robust public option), trying to come to terms with the compromise deal, trying to be optimistic, but even that watered-down package isn't enough for Lieberman and Nelson.

So what's the point? Giving in and giving in, again and again, isn't really getting the Democrats anywhere. So, again, why not push back? Otherwise, where and when will it stop?

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  • Has it occurred to you that Lieberman is getting away with all that's what Reid and Obama want him to do?

    Sure, let Joe Lieberman take all the blame--so that Obama and Reid have an alibi. I doubt either of them wants a bill that does not benefit their corporate donors. But neither wants to piss off the base of the party, so off goes Joe Lieberman on his kamikaze mission.

    By Blogger Mike J., at 5:38 PM  

  • I totally agreed with your point! People can keep the health CARE they have now. What is individual reformed is the way coverage to pay for health care---health insurance--is provided. Right now the insurance companies are making too many profits by dropping people when they get sick or lose their job or need a procedure.

    Great weekend.

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    By Blogger Unknown, at 5:37 AM  

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