Lieberman won’t ‘wiggle’ on public-private competition

LIEBERMAN WON’T ‘WIGGLE’ ON PUBLIC-PRIVATE COMPETITION…. A couple of weeks ago, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) made it sound as if any kind of competition for private health insurers was completely unacceptable — even if competition is “triggered” years from now, based on key benchmarks.

But that couldn’t be, could it? Even some Republicans can tolerate a weak “trigger” compromise. Could the former Democrat really be offended that much by the idea of added choice and competition for consumers? Apparently so.

In a scrum with reporters just now, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) was asked how strong his commitment to filibustering any health care reform public option really is. Asked if he saw any “wiggle room” on his pledge — say, a trigger for example — Lieberman said he “felt like standing firm on this one.”

“I don’t feel like wiggling,” he said.

In other words, no flexibility, no competition, no compromise.

This puts the Connecticut senator to the right of Olympia Snowe, who would accept a public option kicking in down the road, giving insurers at least some incentive to meet certain benchmarks.

It also muddles the Senate picture. If Lieberman isn’t just posturing — and really, who knows? — there aren’t 60 votes for a public option, there aren’t 60 votes for a public option with an opt-out compromise, and there aren’t even 60 votes for a public option “trigger” compromise. As far as Lieberman is concerned, the only health care reform bill that can pass is one that shields private insurance companies from competition entirely.

One can imagine a scenario in which the Senate bill has a trigger, prompting Snowe to vote with Democrats, and Lieberman to vote with Republicans.

For what it’s worth, Lieberman met with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) yesterday. Reid said he’s “confident” that the two will be able to “work something out.”

What that agreement might look like is anybody’s guess.