Lieberman’s Last Straw?

You know a senator has jumped the shark when Ezra Klein writes something like this:

The Huffington Post and Roll Call are both reporting that Joe Lieberman notified Harry Reid that he will filibuster health-care reform if the final bill includes an expansion of Medicare. Previously, Lieberman had been cool to the idea, saying he wanted to make sure it wouldn’t increase the deficit or harm Medicare’s solvency. That comforted some observers, as the CBO is expected to say it will do neither. Someone must have given Lieberman a heads-up on that, as he’s decided to make his move in advance of the CBO score, the better to make sure the facts of the policy couldn’t impede his opposition to it.

To put this in context, Lieberman was originally invited to participate in the process that led to the Medicare buy-in. His opposition would have killed it before liberals invested in the idea. Instead, he skipped the meetings and is forcing liberals to give up yet another compromise. Each time he does that, he increases the chances of the bill’s failure that much more. And it’s hard to imagine there’s a policy rationale here, as he decided against even bothering to wait for the CBO’s analysis before moving against this idea. At this point, Lieberman is just torturing liberals. That is to say, he’s willing to directly cause the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people in order to settle an old electoral score.

Well, yes. And this is something that progressives have been saying online with regard to Lieberman for a while. A great deal of outrage accompanied Congressman Alan Grayson when he said the Republican health care play was to not get sick and if you do, die quickly. Klein is effectively making the same point here. When you peel back the onion of DC patois, opposition to health care reform has real human consequences. Blocking change will have the direct result of hundreds of thousands of American dying in coming years due to a lack of insurance.

I think there is a real opening for using this to push the Overton Window on health care reform. When Alan Grayson or DFHs online say not passing reform will kill tens of thousands of Americans every year, it was a scandal. Ezra Klein of the Washington Post is now saying the same thing with regard to Lieberman’s posturing.

Maybe Democrats and liberal advocacy groups won’t be able to move Lieberman through any volume of public scolding, but such an effort should be able to increase the level of honesty and candor in the debate on health care reform. Doing so would help Democrats take, possibly for the first time, the moral high ground in this debate. It could move more support back into the column of reform and could perhaps be a means of pulling one of the moderate Republicans senators from Maine to support a cloture vote to get the bill to a final up or down vote.

I don’t like being in a place where health care reform depends on a single Republican vote. Thinking about how we got here is incredibly depressing. But this legislation needs to move and it’s time Democrats stop treating Lieberman and other conservatives in the caucus with kid gloves. Their opposition has fatal consequences of a sickening scale and they should not be allowed to get away with it.

One thought on “Lieberman’s Last Straw?

  1. The problem here is not really Lieberman’s behavior: it is depressingly familiar and was exactly why we supported Ned Lamont and attempted to depose Lieberman in 2006. The problem is the Democratic leadership failing to lead – especially Harry Reid, but also including Obama and his advisors. The failure to directly and bluntly criticize these obstructionist tactics, let alone to exact any penalty for opposition displays a sickening weakness. There will be a severe electoral penalty imposed on the Democratic Party for passing legistation that mandates coverage upon an electorate already financially strapped as well as for raising the issue of, but failing to effectively deal with, the human cost and economic cost of a health system that appeaars to exist primarily to enrich health insurance companies and the drug companies.


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