Green Room

Yes On Dr. No!

posted at 4:39 pm on November 24, 2009 by

Sen. Joseph “Smilin’ Joe” Lieberman (I-CT, 85% Democratic) has drawn his foot in the sand:

Sen. Joseph Lieberman, speaking in that trademark sonorous baritone, utters a simple statement that translates into real trouble for Democratic leaders: “I’m going to be stubborn on this.”

Stubborn, he means, in opposing any health-care overhaul that includes a “public option,” or government-run health-insurance plan, as the current bill does. His opposition is strong enough that Mr. Lieberman says he won’t vote to let a bill come to a final vote if a public option is included.

I don’t believe he can ever back away from that absolutely flat statement, and he is not the kind of politician who blithely flips and flops: He will vote against cloture at the end of debate unless the government “option” is stripped from the bill; he insists he’ll do so even if the government option comes with “opt out” or a trigger:

So any version of a public option will compel Mr. Lieberman to vote against bringing a bill to a final vote? “Correct,” he says.

And when Lieberman makes it plain he’s doing so, he will be joined by more or less moderate Sens. Blanche Lincoln (D-AK, 80%), Mary Landrieu (D-LA, 65%), and Ben Nelson (D-NE, 75%). They’ve already expressed very public reservations against the bill; why should they piss off their constituents and damage their reelection chances if ObamaCare is going to be blocked anyway? It’s all pain and no gain.

And if those four go, I suspect others might follow: Sens. Evan Bayh (D-IN, 70%), Max Baucus (D-MT, 80%), and Tim Johnson (D-SD, 80%) are all possible defectors — if others have previously defected, making their own defections irrelevant to the bill’s survival.

To put it bluntly, Lieberman’s adamant refusal to vote for cloture is the first hole in the Democratic dike; it will very likely lead to more.

Unsurprisingly, Sen. Lieberman focuses on a very different worry than do Republican conseratives:

[Lieberman] insists his objection isn’t based on the oft-expressed conservative fear that a public option would lead to a government takeover of health care. He says he doubts this or any subsequent Congress would allow that.

Rather, his objection is based on fiscal risk: “Once the government creates an insurance company or plan, the government or the taxpayers are liable for any deficit that government plan runs, really without limit,” he says. “With our debt heading over $21 trillion within the next 10 years…we’ve got to start saying no to some things like this.”

Fine with me; it’s a perfectly valid argument. I really don’t care why he opposes the government option so strongly, so long as he does!

Mind, Lieberman does want health-insurance reform; he just rejects ObamaCare as currently constituted. He still supports increasing insurance coverage (I don’t know if he supports a mandate) and doing something about people being denied insurance because of pre-existing conditions.

But this leads right back to where I began: I believe the Democrats will manage to pass something which they will label health-insurance reform; it just won’t be the massive government takeover that liberal fascists long to impose.

Cross-posted on Big Lizards

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I have been very pessimistic on this whole thing, I should lighten up by saying I see where you’re going with this.

But given Liebermans history and already voting for the current Bill, will he really vote ‘no’? Will the other ‘moderates’, who also already voted ‘yes’, vote ‘no’?

Yeah, his statement is “hard to back away” from, but all it will take is a ‘Damascus’ moment, even if it’s fabricated to cover for that. These are Washington pols after all.

I will say I hope you are right with this, but my gut tells me they’ll vote for it and BOHICA kicks in.

catmman on November 24, 2009 at 4:57 PM

Sounds fishy.

A career politician saying “no” to saddling taxpayers with more debt?

I thought I’d heard everything. But wait. Obama will no doubt be front page again tomorrow, something about a WH tea party with Hollywood cronies tonight?

Never mind.

Robert17 on November 25, 2009 at 12:32 AM

I believe the Democrats will manage to pass something which they will label health-insurance reform

Watching the Senate CSPAN debate to open debate on the bill, one of the Repubs said that by allowing this bill to go to the floor for debate, the bill cannot be changed by one word or punctuation mark. It can be amended, however.

This means that the final bill can only grow in length through amendments. So this entire bill will have to die in the Senate before they can start all over with a much more limited bill as you (and I) hope.

The cloture vote should occur in late December or early 2010. This is one of the last places to stop this monstrosity from becoming law. If stopped, a serious rewrite to a ‘limited’ bill will take more months, moving the time line closer to the 2010 elections.

In sum, it seems this bill is an all or nothing shot.

GnuBreed on November 25, 2009 at 6:19 AM