Connecticut Democrat blasts Lieberman

Rep. John Larson, the fourth-ranking House Democrat, says he hopes Lieberman will come around in the end


Mike Madden
December 15, 2009 1:45AM (UTC)

One of Joe Lieberman's colleagues in the Connecticut delegation doesn't think very highly of the way the "independent Democrat" has been mucking up healthcare reform legislation.

"Joe Lieberman has always been a person of conscience, and I take him at his word when he says he is opposed -- but the ball seems to move," Rep. John Larson, D-Conn., the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, told a handful of reporters outside House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office Monday afternoon.

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Lieberman, of course, announced late Sunday that no matter how much support the idea of a Medicare buy-in might have garnered from other Senate moderates, he's not interested in playing along. Never mind that he supported a very similar plan only a few months ago.)

House Democrats have, generally, been pretty irritated by the Senate's inability to move forward even with a version of legislation well to the right of the bill the House has already passed. "The caucus is frustrated in general with the Senate that was bringing this health bill up in June and here we are Christmas, and they're still laboring over the package," Larson said. "Any time, whether it's Joe Lieberman or [Nebraska Sen.] Ben Nelson or someone who is critical to obtaining 60 votes -- or whether it's the Gang of Four or the Gang of Six, you name it, whatever gang is operating at the time -- the thing is, any one of them, or a collection of them, can hold up the process. And I think that's extraordinarily frustrating for our caucus."

But Lieberman, who endorsed John McCain last year over President Obama and escaped without much retribution, presents a special case. "It's certainly beyond frustration," Larson said. "In terms of the concern over an issue that's critical to the nation and President Obama, as Social Security was to FDR and Medicare was to Lyndon Johnson -- that's why people are beyond frustrated." Asked what other Connecticut Democrats could to about Lieberman, Larson laughed. "Pray," he said.

Still, hope springs eternal in the hearts of high-ranking House Democrats. "In the final analysis, I think most senators are going to be hard-pressed to stop healthcare from having a vote," Larson said. "It does go back to 'Mr. Smith goes to Washington.' The general public has a sense that you may disagree on policy, but certainly people are entitled to a vote in the Senate on healthcare... This is too big of an issue, too big of a historic moment, to say that a bill can't be voted on."

Whether Lieberman shares Larson's sense of the importance of the issue, of course, remains to be seen.


Mike Madden

Mike Madden is Salon's Washington correspondent. A complete listing of his articles is here. Follow him on Twitter here.

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