Lieberman will join filibuster of public option

The independent senator from Connecticut's decision all but kills the legislation's chances

Topics: Healthcare Reform, War Room, Harry Reid, Joe Lieberman, Politico, U.S. Senate,

Lieberman will join filibuster of public optionSen. Joe Lieberman holds a field hearing Tuesday April 7, 2009 in Hartford, Conn. as chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

Progressives didn’t even get 24 hours to celebrate the victory they won in getting Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to include a version of the public option in his healthcare reform bill. The celebration was cut off Tuesday afternoon with the news that Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., will vote with Senate Republicans to filibuster the legislation.

“I’ve told Sen. Reid that if the bill stays as it is now I will vote against cloture,” Lieberman told Politico. “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’s decision may not be the final, fatal blow to the public option’s chances, but it’s certainly a grievous wound, one that the idea of a government-run insurance plan may not recover from. In order to defeat a filibuster and bring the bill up for an up-or-down vote, Reid needs to round up 60 votes, or all of the members of the Senate Democratic caucus — including Lieberman, who caucuses with the Democrats. With Lieberman voting to filibuster, the majority leader will either have to bring Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, back into the fold somehow or consider using a procedure generally reserved for budget bills known as reconciliation; that procedure prevents the use of a filibuster.

Lieberman’s position on this isn’t totally coherent. He says he will vote yes on a motion to bring the bill to the floor for debate, but when it comes to the roll call that matters — the one that would end the debate and lead to an up-or-down vote — he’ll join with the Republican minority.

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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