Just Foreign Policy Iraqi Death Estimator    

Friday, October 30, 2009

Lieberman In '94: The Filibuster "Ails Washington" And Should Be Eliminated

Senator Joseph Lieberman's (I-Conn) threat to filibuster health care legislation that includes a public option for insurance coverage has sent minor shock-waves throughout Washington.

Among Republicans, the Connecticut Independent inspired a round of cheers for another streak of political independence. Among progressives the question being asked is: How could one senator, through threat of filibuster, hold a historic reform process hostage?

It's a question Lieberman himself once asked. And it's a procedural ploy he once lamented.

Fifteen years ago, as a freshman Democrat, Lieberman actually worked to have the filibuster killed. He deemed the parliamentary maneuver "a dinosaur" that had become "a symbol of a lot that ails Washington today." And, in tandem with Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), he introduced legislation that -- if it had been enacted -- would have made his current opposition to health care absolutely toothless.
"I've told Sen. [Harry] Reid that if the bill stays as it is now I will vote against cloture," the senator said this past week. "I can't see a way in which I could vote for cloture on any bill that contained a creation of a government-operated-run insurance company."

Neither Lieberman nor Harkin's office returned a request for comment. Though, in a bit of irony, the two, have once again been brought together on the question of the appropriate use of a filibuster. Only this time, they're in opposition. On Thursday, Harkin was asked what he thought of Lieberman's threat to torpedo health care reform with a public plan (something Harkin adamantly supports).

"[Lieberman] still wants to be a part of the Democratic Party although he is a registered independent," the HELP Committee chair responded. "He wants to caucus with us and, of course, he enjoys his chairmanship of the [Homeland Security] committee because of the indulgence of the Democratic Caucus. So, I'm sure all of those things will cross his mind before the final vote," he said in a conference call with local reporters.

Is there a more hypocritical figure in American politics than Joe Lieberman? The Connecticut senator declared Tuesday that he would support a filibuster of any health care reform bill that has a public option -- even the version with the "trigger" compromise accepted by Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe -- because it might cost money.

"I think that a lot of people may think that the public option is free," said Lieberman, one of the Senate's big spenders, in a suddenly frugal mood. "It's not. It's going to cost the taxpayers and people that have health insurance now, and if it doesn't, it's going to add terribly to our national debt."

This from a senator who, as much as anyone, helped run up the national debt since 9/11 by pushing to raise the military budget to its highest level since World War II. It is a budget inflated by enormous expenditures on high-tech weaponry irrelevant to combating terror, such as the $2-billion-a-piece submarines -- produced in his home state of Connecticut -- that he claimed were needed to combat al-Qaida, a landlocked enemy holed up in caves. Lieberman is worried about the impact of a very limited public option on the debt the same week as he and others in Congress passed a $680-billion defense bill larded with pork of the sort the Connecticut senator has always supported.

Lieberman, whose state is also home to insurance companies that are opposed to any consumer-friendly medical coverage alternative, boldly stated that his opposition to even the most limited version of a public option should not be surprising: "I think my colleagues know for a long time that I've been opposed to a government-created, government-run insurance company." Perhaps during his filibuster to prevent a vote on the public option Lieberman can square that position with his longtime support of the massive government-run insurance programs Medicare and Social Security.

Maybe he can also take some time then to justify his strong support for the government bailout of troubled banking and insurance companies that has tripled the federal deficit this year to $1.4 trillion. Is AIG not now a "government-run insurance company," and doesn't the $185 billion of taxpayer money thrown at that sorry enterprise add up to more than twice the yearly cost of the health reform package? And that's without considering the trillions of taxpayer dollars put into play to shore up Citigroup, Bank of America, GM, Chrysler and those other suddenly socialized sectors of American corporate life.

Lieberman plans to campaign for Republicans in 2010.

After joining with Republicans this week in a promise to filibuster health reform if a public option is included, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) tells ABC News that he plans on campaigning for some GOP candidates in the 2010 elections:

I probably will support some Republican candidates for Congress or Senate in the elections in 2010. I’m going to call them as I see them.

There’s a hard core of partisan, passionate, hardcore Republicans. There’s a hard core of partisan Democrats on the other side. And in between is the larger group, which is people who really want to see the right thing done, or want something good done for this country and them — and that means, sometimes, the better choice is somebody who’s not a Democrat.

Lieberman also said it remains an “open question” whether he will seek the Democratic nomination when he runs for re-election in 2012. Last month, Lieberman also joked that he may run as a Republican. In September 2008, Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter — who was then still a member of the GOP — ironically said that Lieberman was “practically” voting as a Republican already and should just switch parties.


Post a Comment

<< Home

free hit counter