The Soullessness of Sen. Joseph Lieberman


There is an explosion of blogger reaction to Lieberman’s announcement today that he is willing to sink health care reform over the public option.

Jon Chait is thinking that “it was Lieberman all along“:

I’ve been thinking for a couple weeks that Joe Lieberman is the Democrats’ biggest potential problem. The rest of the party has a strong incentive to pass health care reform and avoid a 2010 catastrophe. But Lieberman? He’s not a Democrat and won’t be running on the Democratic ticket in 2012. Moreover, my read on him is that he’s furious with the party, resentful of President Obama (who beat his friend in 2008) and would relish a Democratic catastrophe.

Of course, I can’t prove this. But look at Lieberman’s reason for why he now says he’ll vote to sustain a GOP filibuster of health care reform:

“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 added 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.”

It literally 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.

Ryan Grim suspects Lieberman may be playing a poker game:

Lieberman will face tremendous pressure from his caucus and the Democratic base to break with the Republican Party and allow a final vote on health care to go forward. Lieberman may be bluffing. Asked by HuffPost if he expects that he would have to cast the vote that he is currently threatening, he demurred. “That depends,” he said.

But for now, he’s drawing a bright line. “I do want to make clear, because at least one publication got this wrong,” he said. “What I said this morning and what I’ve said to Senator Reid is that I’m inclined to vote for cloture on the motion to proceed to a debate on health care reform, because I believe we need to have a debate on health care reform and I hope to be in a position to vote yes on health care reform. But, I’ve also said that if the current proposal remains as it is unamended, before the final vote on the floor, that I will not vote for cloture.”

Ezra Klein sees a lot of bluster and a face-saving escape hatch:

I don’t know why I don’t take Joe Lieberman’s threat to filibuster health-care reform more seriously, but I just don’t. Take what Lieberman told reporters today:

I told Senator Reid that I’m strongly inclined — I haven’t totally decided, but I’m strongly inclined — to vote to proceed to the health-care debate, even though I don’t support the bill that he’s bringing together because it’s important that we start the debate on health-care reform because I want to vote for health-care reform this year. But I also told him that if the bill remains what it is now, I will not be able to support a cloture motion before final passage. Therefore I will try to stop the passage of the bill.

Well, the bill is certain to change between now and then. That’s a lot of wiggle room. Additionally, Lieberman’s argument against the public option is simply false. “I think a lot of people may think that the public option is free,” he says. “It’s not. It’s going to cost the taxpayers and people who have health insurance now, and if it doesn’t it’s going to add terribly to the national debt.” Soon enough, he’ll be looking at Congressional Budget Office numbers saying the exact opposite. The public option costs taxpayers nothing, adds nothing to the debt and saves everyone money. Lieberman won’t be able to hang onto this argument for very long, and then what?

Tons more commentary at Memeorandum.

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