Lieberman holds health care reform hostage

LIEBERMAN HOLDS HEALTH CARE REFORM HOSTAGE…. Just six days ago, there was an apparent breakthrough. Center-left and center-right Dems had crafted a compromise framework, effectively trading a watered-down public option for a Medicare buy-in. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told reporters last Tuesday night that the compromise “has something that we think should satisfy everybody.”

Well, not everybody. Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), who said he’d join a Republican effort to kill health care reform if the bill included a public option, now says he’ll join a Republican effort to kill health care reform if the bill includes a Medicare buy-in.

Lieberman’s position came as a surprise to Reid, considering the self-described Independent Democrat was among the first people Reid spoke to about the Medicare provision when it was discussed by a Democratic group of centrists and liberals attempting to craft a compromise that could secure the votes of all 60 Members of the Democratic Conference. At the time, Lieberman “voiced support” for the plan, according to a Senate Democratic leadership aide. […]

“It’s all coming down to one guy who’s prepared to vote against the interests of children and families in Connecticut who need health care reform,” said one Senate Democratic leadership aide, referring to Lieberman.

The aide indicated that Reid was angry about the turn of events, considering Reid has essentially already agreed to eliminate the bill’s public health insurance option based on Lieberman and other centrists’ opposition.

Keep in mind, the Senate has been in a holding pattern, waiting for the Congressional Budget Office to score the compromise framework. Lieberman made clear yesterday that he considers the score irrelevant.

In other words, it doesn’t matter if reform would cut costs or lower the deficit. It doesn’t matter if reform would save thousands of lives, bring security to tens of millions, and extend coverage to tens of millions more. It doesn’t matter if reform would help businesses and improve wages. What matters is Joe Lieberman’s opposition to expanding Medicare and public-private competition. And why, pray tell, does Lieberman care more about eliminating these provisions than the health care needs of Americans? No one really knows — his vehement, unyielding opposition does not appear to be based on any identifiable policy goals.

Regardless, if he doesn’t get what he wants, Lieberman will kill the bill*, this once-in-a-generation opportunity will disappear, and after having come this close to passing, health care reform will stumble just feet from the finish line.

What’s more, while last week’s compromise appears to have 58 votes, getting to 60 votes on this version now appears impossible. In addition to Lieberman, Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) won’t support a bill with a Medicare buy-in, and yesterday, Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) also signaled his opposition, saying that expanding Medicare may be “the forerunner of single payer, the ultimate single-payer plan.”

And because the Senate has become twisted, legislation with 58 supporters and 42 opponents necessarily can’t even get a vote.

* In case there’s any confusion here, Lieberman is talking not just about the legislation, but about cloture. He’d side with Republicans to kill the bill, and side with Republicans to deny the bill a vote.