KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Lieberman Assures Democrats Of His Support But Ties With Party Are Fraying

The Wall Street Journal reports that Lieberman's "use of his swing vote to help quash a proposed expansion of Medicare marked the latest act in his deteriorating relationship with the Democratic Party. Cheered nine years ago by Democrats as their vice-presidential nominee, Mr. Lieberman later left the party and now is an object of vilification among many in the party's base because of his positions on health care." Moderate Democrats from swing states have also voiced opposition to the legislation, but "Mr. Lieberman comes from liberal Connecticut and has announced his opposition in unusually absolutist terms and at critical moments. He says he is speaking out to ensure the bill is sound, while liberals accuse him of seeking to gratify his ego" (Bendavid and Yoest, 12/16).

McClatchy: "Liberals are furious at Joe Lieberman, charging he had a huge role in scuttling major parts of the public health care option they so badly want -- and Lieberman tried hard Tuesday to clarify his views. … 'Last year, this nation went to the polls and elected Barack Obama -- not Joe Lieberman -- to solve our health care crisis,' said Justin Ruben, Executive Director of 'It is absolutely absurd that after months of work, President Obama and the Democrats are letting one Senator, Joe Lieberman, gut the health care bill.' Lieberman responded Tuesday, saying 'there has been some misunderstanding about my past position on the Medicare buy-in proposal,' explaining that he has 'long been concerned about making health care more accessible and affordable'" (Lightman, 12/15).

Lieberman's Connecticut colleagues are also fed up, Politico reports. "No individual should hold health care hostage, including Joe Lieberman, and I'll say it flat out, I think he ought to be recalled,'" Rep. Rosa DeLauro told the newspaper. "Connecticut has no recall law for state officials, and the Constitution does not authorize states to recall members of Congress. ...DeLauro acknowledged that she didn't know if it was possible to oust Lieberman from office. But her comments reflected the deep frustration many Democrats felt after Lieberman told Senate Majority Harry Reid that he'd join Republicans in filibustering the Senate health care reform bill if it included either a public insurance option or a provision allowing people ages 55 to 64 to buy into Medicare" (Raju and Isenstadt, 12/15).

The Associated Press reports that Lieberman's opposition "unnerved Democrats at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue and must have come in some measure as a surprise to Reid. Only two months earlier, the majority leader had called Lieberman 'the least of Harry Reid's problems.' By Monday, Lieberman headed Reid's list of senators who must be accommodated" (Kellman, 12/15).

Roll Call: Lieberman has "privately assured President Barack Obama and members of the Senate Democratic Conference ... that he would likely support the chamber's health care reform bill when it comes to a vote." Still, the senator also left "himself some wiggle room, however, telling Members that he would not make a final decision until he has seen a Congressional Budget Office cost estimate and has read the final language in the bill" (Pierce, 12/15).

And Lieberman "said Tuesday that he would not rule out running for re-election in 2012 as a Republican," CNN reports. "'I like being an independent, so that's definitely a possibility,' the Connecticut senator said. 'But I'd say all options are open.' …'I've reached the stage in my career where I'm not measuring every step I take based on how it's going to affect the next election,' Lieberman said. 'I think if you do that, you end up compromising the quality of your service'" (Bash, 12/16).

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