Feel the Joementum

FEEL THE JOEMENTUM…. There was a report this week that Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), despite threats of joining Republican efforts to kill health care reform, has quietly told the Senate Democratic leadership that, when push comes to shove, he won’t support a filibuster. Both the leadership and the independent senator denied the reports.

If it is an elaborate ploy for Lieberman to get leverage and attention, he’s really milking it. Indeed, this morning on “Fox News Sunday,” the former Democrat certainly didn’t seem to be going through the motions.

As Amanda Terkel reported, Lieberman still opposes the existing plan, and is pointing to the public option as the deal-breaker.

LIEBERMAN: A public option plan is unnecessary. It has been put forward, I’m convinced, by people who really want the government to take over all of health insurance. They’ve got a right to do that; I think that would be wrong.

But worse than that, we have a problem even greater than the health insurance problems, and that is a debt — $12 trillion today, projected to be $21 trillion in 10 years.

WALLACE: So at this point, I take it, you’re a “no” vote in the Senate?

LIEBERMAN: If the public option plan is in there, as a matter of conscience, I will not allow this bill to come to a final vote because I believe debt can break America and send us into a recession that’s worse than the one we’re fighting our way out of today. I don’t want to do that to our children and grandchildren.

It’s hard to know where to start with this, but let’s unwrap this a bit.

First, Lieberman sees a conspiracy theory among policymakers — reform advocates say they want public-private competition that promotes consumer choice and lower costs, but they really want is socialized medicine. For proof to bolster the assertion, Lieberman points to … nothing in particular. For what it’s worth, multiple reports, including the analysis of the CBO, make clear that public and private plans can compete without one driving the other out of existence.

Second, using public-private competition as an excuse to oppose reform is pretty cheap. Lieberman opposed the Baucus reform plan, too, and it didn’t have any public option at all.

Third, if debt is at the top of Lieberman’s priority — it shouldn’t be, but if it is — he should support health care reform. It lowers the deficit and gets spiraling costs under control.

Fourth, Lieberman says he opposes public-private competition so much, he won’t even let the Senate vote on the bill. This, of course, is the same Lieberman who tried to eliminate the filibuster altogether.

But stepping back, I’m curious to see how House passage affects pressure on the Senate. After several decades of efforts, health care reform is finally within reach. It’s been approved, for the first time, by the House, and a majority of the Senate is ready to support a similar bill.

There is, another words, a heavy historical weight for Lieberman to consider. At this point, with this once-in-a-generation opportunity in the balance, is Joe Lieberman prepared to kill a desperately needed reform bill because he’s outraged by the idea of some eligible consumers choosing between a public and a private health care plan? No matter how many millions of Americans will suffer if the bill dies? Despite the fact that the current Senate plan is a compromise of a compromise of a compromise? Seriously?

All he and a handful of center-right Dems have to do is let the Senate vote. That’s all — just give the bill a chance to pass or fail. They can vote against it, of course, but they just have to open the door.

The depths of Lieberman’s propensity for betrayal will soon face a unique test.