Joe Lieberman just can't help himself

As he discusses healthcare reform strategy, the senator seems out of touch with reality


Alex Koppelman
October 15, 2009 3:25AM (UTC)

Occasionally, it seems like Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., has just decided to parody himself. That's probably not what's happened, though, and it's too bad -- the act would be a lot funnier if the senator were in on the joke.

It's one thing for Lieberman to oppose even the most moderate of the Democratic healthcare reform proposals, the bill drawn up by Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont. That's his right, of course, and it's not like he's officially a Democrat anymore, so -- though he caucuses with the Senate's Democrats -- he doesn't need to hew to the party line on its biggest issue of the year.

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But the way that Lieberman is going about discussing his opposition to the bill, well, that's a different story. At this point, it seems almost like he's playing a character, one who just hasn't noticed that it's 2009, the Democratic caucus has 60 seats in the Senate (well, including Lieberman's) and the Republicans are determined not to give the Democrats more than a vote or two on any of their  major initiatives.

Lieberman was on Fox News Wednesday afternoon, talking to host Neil Cavuto and giving the network a counterpoint to the defection of Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe. When Cavuto asked him, "[T]he leadership has indicated it might not go for a filibuster-proof majority -- a simple majority will do. If they go that route, Senator, what do you think?" Lieberman responded:

Oh, I think that's a real mistake. I hope they don't have -- in other words, this is going the -- it's if you go the normal way, and you have to get 60 votes to break a filibuster, or whether you try it under something called reconciliation, a budget process, for 51. That budget process is not going to allow a lot of the things that people on all sides want to do for health insurance reform just by the process of reconciliation. So I think it would be a mistake.

I also think it would really explode any hope of bipartisan cooperation for the rest of this session of Congress, and that would be too bad because we've got some big things we've got to work on together. So I hope we can reason together on health insurance, healthcare reform, and get it done. But maybe not do -- try to do too much at once in the middle of the beginning of a recovery to a recession.

You sort of have to wonder where Lieberman's getting this from. Senate Republicans  have made it very clear there won't be more than a couple votes from their side of the aisle for any reform bill. Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley, who led the GOP's negotiating team for the Baucus bill, has basically said that no matter how many concessions he got, he still wouldn't support the legislation. On the other really big vote of the year, the stimulus package, only three Republicans -- Snowe, Maine's Susan Collins and Pennsylvania's Arlen Specter -- voted in favor, and Specter became a Democrat not long thereafter.


Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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