Lieberman Draws Increasing Ire From Democrats, Reid Criticized For GOP/Slavery Comments
News organizations are honing in on key players in the health reform debate.
Sen. Joseph Lieberman is drawing the criticism of Democrats as he once again threatens to withhold his vote from a Senate health care reform bill, The Washington Post reports. Lieberman, I-Conn., "says he is feeling 'relevant' as he threatens to withhold his vote - potentially the decisive 60th - on health-care reform legislation if it includes a government-run insurance plan. ... A number of senators are privately furious, Senate sources said. But they added that it is unlikely the Democratic caucus would take punitive action, such as stripping his chairmanship of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee - at least not in this Congress" (Romano and MacGillis, 12/8).
Roll Call reports that Lieberman has been absent from talks to craft a compromise on the public plan, though he was invited by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. "Senate Democratic aides said Monday that Lieberman's decision to skip meetings that could prove crucial to Reid's ability to pass a bill may suggest that Lieberman's vote is out of reach." People in Lieberman's office Monday told Roll Call that Lieberman hasn't attended because "he feels he has been unambiguous about where he stands" (Pierce, 12/8).
In the meantime, Politico reports that Sen. David Vitter, R-La., has been silent on whether he will join Republicans in seeking to cut $300 million in Medicaid aid to Louisiana, a provision that Louisiana's other senator, Democrat Mary Landrieu, pushed to insert into the Senate's health legislation. It puts Vitter "smack between two competing constituencies as he faces a potentially tough reelection next year."
"Vitter, who has a chilly relationship with Landrieu, told Politico that he's 'extremely uncomfortable with it being on this bill - in particular, it is essentially buying support and buying votes on this bill.'" Landrieu has said she was not bought and that the Medicaid money was the top request of Louisiana Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal (Raju, 12/7).
CongressDaily: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is working to keep Republicans united to defeat the Senate bill and reap political benefit. "Those goals leave McConnell and Republican leaders walking a thin line, working to defeat the bill the only way they can, by filibuster and delay, while trying to keep constant Democratic charges of GOP obstructionism from sticking" (Friedman and McPike, 12/8).
McClatchy reports on a political dust-up that followed Reid's comparison of Republicans' efforts to thwart the Democrats' health overhaul with past campaigns to obstruct progress on slavery, women's suffrage and civil rights. "While congressional analysts thought that comparing GOP strategists to the senators who tried to thwart historic civil rights movements was misplaced, they agreed with Reid that the Republican effort to slow the health care bill is well-rooted in U.S. Senate history," according to McClatchy. McClatchy reports Reid said: "Instead of joining us on the right side of history, all Republicans have come up with is this: 'Slow down, stop everything. Let's start over'" (Lightman and Douglas, 12/7).
The Hill: "Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele suggested Democrats should strip Reid of his leadership position if he does not apologize for the comments." Other GOP lawmakers also weighed in. "If he is going to stand by these statements, the Democrats must immediately reconsider his fitness to lead them," said Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga. "It is an indication of desperation," said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas. Sen. John McCain called for Reid to come "to the floor and if not apologize, certainly clarify his remarks, that he was not referring to those of us who we believe are ... carrying out and performing our constitutional duties" (Zimmermann and Fabian, 12/7).
Finally, The Washington Times reports that White House health 'czar' Nancy-Ann DeParle earned more than $6.6 million as a director for health care firms, some of which were "targeted in government investigations or whistleblower lawsuits on suspicions of billing fraud and other legal problems."
"Mrs. DeParle, a former top administrator for the agency that runs Medicare and Medicaid, has resigned from her corporate directorships and said she will remove herself from any matters directly involving the companies" (Neubauer, 12/8).