Tuesday 27 October 2009
by: Scott Galindez, t r u t h o u t | NewsWire
Liberal and progressive Democrats were ecstatic yesterday when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced there would be a public option in the Senate version of health care reform legislation. Reid said he was confident that he could hold his caucus together and get the 60 votes needed to clear procedural hurdles in the Senate.
Today all that has changed as Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Connecticut) has once again bucked the party by announcing that he will support a Republican filibuster unless the public option is removed from the bill.
Also see below:
Jason Leopold | Senate Bill to Include Public Option "Opt-Out" Plan •
According to talking points memo, Lieberman told reporters on Tuesday:
"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."
If Lieberman holds through to his threat, the Democrats will need to win the support of at least one Republican in the Senate to bring the bill before the Senate for a final vote. The one GOP senator who has shown support for the Democrats' health care reform effort is Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine). Senator Snowe issued the following statement on Monday:
"I am deeply disappointed with the Majority Leader's decision to include a public option as the focus of the legislation. I still believe that a fallback, safety net plan, to be triggered and available immediately in states where insurance companies fail to offer plans that meet the standards of affordability, could have been the road toward achieving a broader bipartisan consensus in the Senate."
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs responded to the news of Lieberman's defection by telling reporters:
I haven't seen the report from Senator Lieberman or why he's saying what he's saying. I think Democrats and Republicans alike will be held accountable by their constituents who want to see health care reform enacted this year. We see it in the polling that you guys do every day that they want the system, as it is now, to be fixed to ensure accessibility for those that don't have it, for cutting costs for those who do, and for important insurance reforms like pre-existing conditions to be addressed. And we know that if that doesn't happen, people say they'll be very disappointed by that, and we think people will make progress to ensure that this gets done.
This is not the first time that the junior senator from Connecticut had angered members of his caucus. Lieberman, now an Independent who caucuses with the Democrats, lost the Democratic primary in 2006 as a result of his strong support for the war in Iraq and other controversial Bush administration policies. The real question here is how long the Democrats will maintain their ties to Lieberman, while he continues to stab them in the back on important legislation.