Friday, November 12, 2010

With Friends Like This

Ezra Klein had a rather interesting interesting post up at his Washington Post blog about Sen. Joseph Lieberman's (I-Connecticut) behavior during the crafting of the healthcare reform bill. The context of the post is the recent election and the current finger pointing going on with respect to why the Democrats did so poorly. But it's also about how the Senate operates, especially in dealing with issues crucial to the American public.

Late in the negotiations over the public option, a group of five conservative Democrats and five more-liberal Democrats seemed near to an unexpectedly smart compromise: Allow adults over 55 to buy into Medicare. This idea had a couple of different virtues: For one, it opened an effective and cheap program up to a group of Americans who often have the most trouble finding affordable insurance. For another, the Congressional Budget Office has said this policy would improve Medicare's finances by bringing healthier, younger applicants into the risk pool. Oh, and it's wildly popular with liberals, who want to see Medicare offered as an option to more people, and since Medicare is already up and running, it could've been implemented rapidly.

But Lieberman killed it. It was never really clear why. He'd been invited to the meetings where the compromise was developed, but he'd skipped them. He'd supported the idea when he ran for president with Al Gore, and he'd reaffirmed that support three months prior to its emergence in the health-care debate during an interview with the editorial board of the Connecticut Post. But now that it was on the table, he seemed to be groping for reasons to oppose it. About the best he managed was that it was "duplicative," which was about as nonsensical a position as could be imagined. Nevertheless, he swore to filibuster the bill if the buy-in option was added. The proposal was duly removed.

In other words, yet again Joe Lieberman, the once-upon-a-time Democrat who became an Independent after he lost the Democratic primary, screwed the party that allowed him to keep his plum committee chairmanships even though he was no longer a Democrat and had zero seniority. Apparently the deal given to him by the Senate Democratic leadership only required that he caucus with the Dems, not that he vote with them. Some deal.

That the "most exclusive country club in the world" is a dysfunctional body comes as no surprise to anyone. That's one of the reasons why voters were angry this election. This little episode also sheds some light on why liberal voters were so angry that many of them just stayed home on election day.

The White House never promised a single-payer system, but did hint at a public option for those who simply could not afford private insurance premiums. When that hint evaporated, there was at least an attempt to compromise on the issue. While the compromise was certainly not a replacement for what most Americans need, at least it was a move in the right direction. And it would have been enough of a sop that liberals would have settled for it. The compromise also had the virtue of shoring up Medicare. Yet Joe Lieberman was allowed to scuttle it, and he will not pay any penalty. He wasn't up for re-election, and he will have the same power in the 112th Congress.

What I find so horrific about the whole episode is that this is the first time I've heard of it, and I followed the healthcare reform process pretty carefully. I also don't consider myself to actually be a "fucking retard," although I will cop to being naive. It would have been nice if somebody in the press had weighed in on the threat made by Joe Lieberman. It would have been nicer if Harry Reid or any other senator had let us know why we couldn't have a public option or something vaguely approaching it beyond stating "the votes aren't there." Well, the votes weren't there earlier this month, and this is one of the reasons why.


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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Guess you missed this:

Where Jolting Joe opposed the idea because liberals like Anthony Weiner liked it so much.

10:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the simple answer is that Reid and Lieberman were working hand in glove, with Lieberman doing nothing more than following Reid's orders. Because it's not as if Reid wanted the public option either. As much is obvious from his non-effort to secure the votes in its support...

8:23 AM  
Anonymous Paul said...

Lieberman has only ever had one constituency, and it is not America.

3:17 PM  

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