Lieberman really, really doesn't like the public option

The Connecticut senator rules out any form of the idea, including a compromise proposed by a Republican


Alex Koppelman
November 25, 2009 12:35AM (UTC)

In case anyone was still wondering, Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., tells the Wall Street Journal in an article published Tuesday that he opposes all possible forms of a public option, and he's going to be "stubborn" about it.

The Journal's Gerald Seib asked Lieberman if he could support some compromise form of the public option -- if not the one currently in the Senate bill, which allows states to opt out, then perhaps the "trigger" plan advanced by Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine? The answer, reportedly, was no to all possibilities. Asked whether any form of a public option would lead to his voting to support a filibuster, Lieberman replied, "correct."

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On a related topic, in the Daily Beast, Peter Beinart has an interesting article exploring Lieberman's history and his current stance. Beinart asks why, given his record as a liberal on domestic policy, the senator's staking out the position he is, and has this answer:

For close to a decade, he got nearly perfect scores from the American Public Health Association, which backs a single-payer health-care system, and in lieu of that, the “public option.” Now, all of a sudden, he’s so outraged by a public option that he’s threatening to filibuster any bill that contains it. The arguments he makes on behalf of his new position are remarkably weak: He says the public option will raise costs, even though the Congressional Budget Office has said no such thing, and even though logic suggests that by competing with private insurers, a government plan will actually drive costs down. Some have accused Lieberman of shifting right in order to win backing from the insurance industry in preparation for a 2012 reelection run. But, in fact, he gets relatively little insurance money, and Connecticut politicos mostly think he won’t run.

So why is he doing this? Because he’s bitter. According to former staffers and associates, he was upset by his dismal showing in the 2004 Democratic presidential primary. And he was enraged by the tepid support he got from many party leaders in 2006, when he lost the Democratic primary to an anti-war activist and won reelection as an independent. Gradually, this personal alienation has eaten away at his liberal domestic views. His staff has grown markedly more conservative in recent years, and his closest friends in Congress are now Republicans John McCain and Lindsey Graham. For Lieberman, the personal has become political, and it has pushed him further to the right.


Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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