Lieberman cowers in the face of crisis

LIEBERMAN COWERS IN THE FACE OF CRISIS…. The conventional wisdom is that Sen. Joe Lieberman (I) of Connecticut is willing to stand with the Democratic caucus on everything except national security issues. He continues to prove, however, that this isn’t true at all.

Yesterday, appearing on CNN, Lieberman said comprehensive health care reform would be nice, but when it comes to coverage to the tens of millions of Americans with no insurance, he’d like to push the issue off — until some undetermined point in the future.

“[W]e’re in a recession. People are very worried about their jobs, about the economic future. They’ve watched us add to the debt of this country…. Let’s talk about how to change the way health care is delivered. Let’s talk about protecting people from not getting insurance because of preexisting illness. Let’s take off the caps on the amount of insurance coverage you can get over the years. Let’s pay for preventive services for health from the first dollar. Here’s the tough one. We morally, every one of us, would like to cover every American with health insurance. But that’s where you spend most of the $1 trillion plus, a little less that is estimated, the estimate said this health care plan will cost.

“And I’m afraid we’ve got to think about putting a lot of that off until the economy’s out of recession. There’s no reason we have to do it all now, but we do have to get started. And I think the place to start is cost health delivery reform and insurance market reforms.”

In other words, lawmakers can pass popular consumer protections for those who already have insurance. But if you have no coverage, and your family is one serious illness away from financial ruin, Lieberman wants you to be patient. The politicians will get to you eventually. Maybe after premiums continue to soar and the ranks of the uninsured swell even more, the economy will improve and Lieberman will discover his spine.

I kept waiting for Lieberman to explain why the recession necessarily means the tens of millions of Americans with no coverage should have to wait. He didn’t. Apparently it has something to do with the deficit, which he misstated by $200 billion, and which doesn’t make sense since reform must be deficit neutral anyway.

Lieberman did add, however, that if Senate Democrats tried to pass reform through reconciliation, it would be a “real mistake,” for “the system” and “the Obama presidency.”

And why would it be a “real mistake” for legislation to pass, simply because a majority of the Senate voted for it? Lieberman didn’t say.

Over the weekend, President Obama said, “[I]f we pass health insurance reform, we will look back many years from now and say, this was the moment we summoned what’s best in each of us to make life better for all of us…. This was the moment we earned our place alongside the greatest generations. And that is what our generation of Americans is called to do right now.”

For some, that call is louder than for others.