Joe Lieberman has had plenty of experience in enraging his fellow Democrats by maintaining an independent if still liberal viewpoint on policies from national security to war. Harry Reid will have yet another headache after Lieberman’s interview with Bloomberg, in which he firmly opposed the public plan in ObamaCare, which Reid, Nancy Pelosi, and Barack Obama have pushed hard. Lieberman says he sees no need for government to enter into this market, as The Hill reports:
Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) said this weekend that he opposes a public option plan for consumers in a healthcare reform plan to emerge from the Senate.
“I don’t favor a public option,” Lieberman told Bloomberg News in an interview broadcast this weekend. And I don’t favor a public option because I think there’s plenty of competition in the private insurance market.” …
“We have a unique opportunity, a real opportunity to do this year what we’ve been trying to do for years, which is to reform American healthcare,” Lieberman said. “I think the one thing that will stop that is pressure on the so-called public option.”
Other Democrats in the Senate, mostly from the red states, have also retreated from the public plan. Mary Landrieu (LA) and Ben Nelson (NE) have not quite announced opposition to it, but have sounded skeptical notes. Even if Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins join the Democrats, it would not take more than the three Democrats to uphold a filibuster on the entire bill, and we have yet to hear an explicit stand from other red-state Democrats such as Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor (AR), as well as Max Baucus and Jon Tester (MT).
Lieberman is right that a public plan would harden opposition to the health-care reform effort and give opponents a real lever for obstruction — and for good reason. Most people believe that the health-care system in the US needs some sort of reform, although opinions vary widely on what form that should take. Most people oppose a single-payer system and would not want a Trojan horse like the public plan included in the bill, and stopping single payer would give the Republicans a big issue in the midterms, even those Republicans in favor of more modest reforms.
For that reason, it might be better for the GOP if Reid and Pelosi keep the public plan option in the final bill, as long as we can get enough votes to block it in the Senate and keep it bottled up for the rest of the year. The public plan option is a gateway drug for socialized medicine, and its inclusion makes the underlying motives of Democratic leadership that much more transparent. Lieberman’s opposition gives that transparency a big boost, and if history serves as any judge, Reid, Pelosi, & Co will demonize Lieberman instead of listening to his wisdom.