Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Joe Lieberman reminds me why I stopped paying attention to the legislative sausage making...

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) said Tuesday that he’d back a GOP filibuster of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s health care reform bill.

Lieberman, who caucuses with Democrats and is positioning himself as a fiscal hawk on the issue, said he opposes any health care bill that includes agovernment-run insurance program — even if it includes a provision allowing states to opt out of the program, as Reid has said the Senate bill will.
Who knows how much of this is just posturing for power... but as Jonathan Chait reminds us, he made a pretty good case a few weeks ago as to why Lieberman might be the real thorn in health care reform's side:
For months I've been predicting that the Democrats will pass health care reform because they're not going to cut their own throat. But Lieberman is an independent. A failed Democratic presidency wouldn't necessarily bring him down with it in 2012. It might even help. So I may have made a major error focusing on red state Democrats and overlooking Lieberman.

His reasoning is persuasive... Ben Nelson and other red state Democrats ultimately need reform to pass or they're gone in backlash elections... just like Obama. They need a bill to pass, but they really want to vote against it... threading the needle is getting one "close enough" that they vote for cloture (60 votes) but not the bill itself (50 votes). Lieberman doesn't have those same incentives (in fact Hartford is home to some big insurance companies)... and he seems to be filled with more than a little anger towards the liberals who saw him lose a primary challenge and the President who beat his friend.

Steve Benen notes that none of the big players are concerned about Lieberman's vote, but doesn't really get why they're so dismissive given Lieberman's recent track record and incentives. I would have to agree with Steve... given the incentives, I don't know why they're so confident... but I certainly hope they're right.

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