Eyes on Lieberman

EYES ON LIEBERMAN…. This week, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) raised a few eyebrows by expressing his opposition to the health care reform plan passed by the Senate Finance Committee. To bring a reform bill to the floor, Dems are looking to have 60 votes, and one of them is expected to come from Lieberman. How big a problem is this likely to be?

It seems to depend on who you ask. One of the senator’s home-state papers, the New Haven Register, reports today that Lieberman is prepared to vote for cloture, even if he intends to vote against the bill.

U.S. Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, I-Conn., whose vote could be crucial to breaking an expected GOP filibuster on health care legislation, Thursday said he would consider voting to move the bill forward, even if he ultimately casts his ballot against the reform package. […]

Lieberman said he was “inclined to let the motion to proceed” (or cloture) go forward, but “I haven’t decided yet.”

That he’s “inclined” to let the Senate vote on the legislation is at least somewhat encouraging, but Lieberman’s overall inclinations are still anything but clear. He was also asked this week about whether he’d join with Republicans to block consideration of the bill. “Well, uh, we’ll see,” Lieberman said.

Lieberman was then reminded that filibustering reform would be unprecedented, and that, as a Gang of 14 member, he has a history of supporting cloture. Shouldn’t health care reform get an up-or-down vote? “I think it’s early to ask that question,” he replied, smiling.

Ezra noted the other day, “I could be proven wrong on this, but I’m not that worried about Lieberman. His name hasn’t come up in any of the conversations I’ve had with Senate staffers about wavering members. And Democrats actually have a lot of leverage over Lieberman…. Lieberman has too much to lose, too little to gain, and hasn’t proven himself irrational thus far.”

I’m not as optimistic about Lieberman, but it’s an angle worth keeping an eye on.