KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Democrats Say Victorious Lieberman Flip-Flopped On Medicare Buy-In

CNN:  Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., "an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, has emerged as the majority party's main obstacle to its efforts to get a health care bill through the Senate before Christmas. He ratcheted up his public opposition to the bill Sunday by threatening to join a Republican filibuster if the legislation contains either a government-run public health insurance option or a proposed alternative that would expand Medicare to people as young as 55"  (Bash and Cohen, 12/14).

The New York Times: "Mr. Lieberman could not be happier. He is right where he wants to be - at the center of the political aisle, the center of the Democrats' efforts to win 60 votes for their sweeping health care legislation. For the moment, he is at the center of everything - and he loves it. 'My wife said to me, 'Why do you always end up being the point person here?'' he said, flashing a broad grin in an interview on Monday." In the meantime, "Democratic leaders noted that Mr. Lieberman on numerous occasions had voiced support for the Medicare buy-in proposal that he now wants dropped" (Herszenhorn and Kirkpatrick, 12/14).

"Democrats circulated video Monday from a Connecticut newspaper's interview in September showing Lieberman voicing support for a so-called Medicare buy-in," The Associated Press reports, noting the video "shows Lieberman talking about the health care reform proposals he has backed over the years, including during his 2006 re-election campaign. 'My proposals were to basically expand the existing successful public health insurance programs Medicare and Medicaid,' the senator said" (Miga, 12/14).

MSNBC reports that Lieberman's office, in a release, said he made the comment to the Connecticut Post before the "'Senate [Finance] Committee reported out the Baucus Bill, which contained extensive health insurance reforms. ... Any inclusion of a Medicare buy-in for that same age group would be duplicative of what is already in the bill, would put the government on the hook for billions of additional dollars, and would potentially threaten the solvency of Medicare, which is already in a perilous state,' the release said" (Montanaro, 12/14). 

The Christian Science Monitor: "[Lieberman] has emerged as perhaps the key player in the fate of healthcare reform legislation in the Senate – infuriating many Democrats, who accuse him of acting less out of a sense of principle than a desire to protect insurance companies, a key industry in his state. But as Senator Lieberman and his fellow moderates push the Senate's massive health bill toward the right, the hard political fact is that it is liberals, not Lieberman, who may soon have to make a tough decision" (Grier, 12/14).

Roll Call reports that White House officials have asked Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to make a deal with Lieberman. "However, several Democrats said they do not know whether Lieberman can be trusted to follow through on any agreements. Democratic sources insist that Lieberman privately told Reid just a week and a half ago that the Medicare expansion would not draw his opposition." Lieberman aides said he never promised support (Pierce, 12/15).

Roll Call in a separate story: "Though anger at Lieberman appeared to be simmering under the surface, Reid tried to defuse the situation in the caucus by pre-emptively acknowledging Members' frustration with Lieberman, one source said. Reid told Members that he understood how they felt, but reminded them of the many GOP filibusters Lieberman has helped them overcome this year, the source said" (Pierce and Drucker, 12/14).

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