Green Room

ObamaCare: Lieberman, Nelson needle Reid’s trial balloon (and the CLASS Act)

posted at 1:46 am on December 14, 2009 by

The Hill feigned a little surprise over this:

Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) both said a Medicare “buy-in” option for those aged 55-64 was a deal breaker.


Lieberman said Democrats should stop looking for a public option “compromise” and simply scrap the idea altogether.


If Democrats stick to relying primarily on the bill’s subsidies, the legislation would pass easily and with bipartisan support, Lieberman argued.

But how can anyone be surprised, after Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) already signaled his doubts about Reid’s Kennedy retread? Sen. Ben Nelson is a creature of the insurance industry from a state that has been Red since 1964. Sen. Joe Lieberman represents Connecticut, a state which — like Nebraska — is home to a number of major insurers and lukewarm at best on ObamaCare.

Lieberman apparently reiterated his opposition directly to Sen. Maj. Ldr. Harry Reid:

The pledge by Lieberman to oppose the bill represents a potentially huge setback for reform proponents, many of who saw the latest round of policy compromises as the last true chance to corral the needed votes. That said, leadership has several fallback options (none of them promising) should Lieberman follow through on the threat…

TNR’s Jonathan Cohn claims that Lieberman previously told Reid he could support the Medicare buy-in, but for sheer, unadulterated schadenfreude, you cannot beat Ezra Klein accusing ol’ Joe of being “willing to cause the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people in order to settle an old electoral score.” Democrats are quietly panicking over the possibility that Reid’s trial balloon will get a bad CBO score. But what the Nelsons and Lieberman (and Snowe, for that matter) are suggesting is that a good CBO score likely does not matter.

Indeed, the “public option” is not the only problem these senators have with Reid’s bill, either. Lieberman said that Ted Kennedy’s CLASS Act (a long-term care entitlement program that Sen. Kent Conrad called “a Ponzi scheme of the first order”) also has to come out of the bill. Ben Nelson has previously issued the same demand. And there were 51 votes to remove it — a majority, but not the 60 required under the current Senate procedure. Like the public option, Reid included the CLASS Act to appease his Lefty base, and will have to find a way to back out.

Emptywheel complains that relying primarily on the bill’s subsidies amounts to a bailout of the health care industry… and she is correct. Unfortunately, most of her friends on the Left do not want to confront the fact that Obama’s healthcare strategy has always been to buy off the interest groups, and to give up the public option as part of the deal. Consequently, they end up stamping their feet, demanding something they were never going to get, instead of joining a bipartisan coalition to kill a bill that whacks 68.4 million individuals, families, and single parents with incomes under $200K, and does nothing to meaningfully address the cost curve it claims to bend.

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Glancing through the HuffPo comments at the “quietly panicking” link, it’s heartening to see lefties who hate the bill (“2000 pages of toilet paper”) as much as conservatives do…

CK MacLeod on December 14, 2009 at 2:24 AM

I am loving it, CK!

BlameAmericaLast on December 14, 2009 at 7:16 AM

And, what of the individual mandate? Will someone please get rid of that too!

MTF on December 14, 2009 at 9:11 AM

MTF on December 14, 2009 at 9:11 AM

I wish they would dump the mandate, but that’s because that’s really the crucial part of the entire Rube Goldberg contraption. It’s the quid pro quo to the big insurers for being forced to insure anyone, regardless of pre-existing conditions. Even if this turns out like 1994, the mandate will be the last thing to die.

Karl on December 14, 2009 at 10:03 AM

Exactly my point. Leiberman won’t kill it, nor Nelson. Somehow, a different coalition is going to have to be cobbled together on this issue. There will be a bill of some sort, if the president has any control at all over his party, and the mandate should be at least one part of hte price he pays.

MTF on December 14, 2009 at 4:11 PM