SELECTIVE USE OF SENATORIAL ‘RIGHTS’…. Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) was specifically asked this afternoon why he couldn’t just vote for cloture — letting health care reform come to the floor for a Senate vote — and then oppose the bill itself. “Because that is not using the rights I have as a senator,” he replied.

What’s worth remembering, though, is that Lieberman uses his “rights” selectively, and has a record of ending filibusters on legislation he ultimately votes against.

In March 2005, the senator joined 55 Republicans and 13 Democrats in backing cloture on a bill that made several significant changes to the U.S. Bankruptcy Code, chief among them making it more difficult to file for bankruptcy under Chapter 7. The Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act ended up passing the Senate by a vote of 74 to 25, with Lieberman in the opposition.

In September 2006, Lieberman did the same thing. The senator voted to invoke cloture on The Secure Fence Act, which would have used advanced technologies — including unmanned aerial vehicles, ground-based sensors, satellites, radar coverage, and cameras — to create “operational control of the borders.” The bill would pass by a vote of 80 to 19, with Lieberman joining many of the Democratic Party’s more progressive members in voting nay.

In April 2007, Lieberman again granted a parliamentary pass to a bill that he ultimately opposed. The U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans’ Health, and Iraq Accountability Act would have funded troops in Iraq provided that certain demands be made of the Iraqi government and that a timeline be implemented for the removal of U.S. forces. The bill ended up being passed by a vote of 51 to 46, with Lieberman voting against it, only to be vetoed by then President George W. Bush.

Lieberman, in other words, has “rights” that he only takes seriously when he wants to.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.