Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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December 15, 2009

THE ALLEGED REDUNDANCY.... I promise not to spend another day posting incessantly about Joe Lieberman, but there's one part of yesterday's discussion that warrants some follow-up.

Lieberman reportedly decided on Sunday that he'd kill health care reform if it included a Medicare buy-in for Americans aged 55 to 64. The position appeared incomprehensible yesterday when evidence emerged showing Lieberman not only embracing this exact same idea as part of a national platform nine years ago, but also publicly endorsing the proposal three months ago.

So, why would the Connecticut senator threaten to kill reform over a measure he claimed to support? In the interest of fairness, it's worth noting that Lieberman has an explanation, such that it is.

"We've got this very strong network and system of subsidies for people, including people who are 55-65 so the idea of the Medicare buy in no longer was necessary because they're taken care of very well under the Finance Committee proposal," Lieberman said.

For years, Lieberman had supported the idea of a Medicare buy-in as a promising vehicle for reform, including, as TPMDC first noted this morning, as recently as three months ago. Asked specifically about his position this past September, Lieberman now says that the Senate Finance Committee bill, finalized in October, dealt with the problem of the uninsured so well that the buy-in became redundant.

That's an interesting spin. Let's count all of the ways in which it's unpersuasive.

First, Lieberman says the Finance Committee bill does such a good job for the 55-to-64 crowd, there's nothing to worry about. That's vaguely possible, but let's not forget, Lieberman opposed the Finance Committee bill.

Second, the substance of Lieberman's claim doesn't stand up well to scrutiny: "Back when Lieberman endorsed Medicare buy-in in September, the basic subsidies for people in the 55-65 age range were part of the House health care bill, and were clearly going to be part of whatever emerged from the Senate. Nobody imagined a health care bill that would do nothing for people aged 55-65. What's more, even if Lieberman were completely unaware of even the most rough outlines that health care reform was taking, it's hard to imagine how he or anybody could believe that Medicare buy-in was desirable on its own but, in combination with other subsidies, so undesirable as to be a cause for filibustering reform. There's no way anybody would design their policy priorities this way."

And third, a redundancy is worth killing health care reform over? It's the kind of thing a senator might say if he's not negotiating in good faith.

Steve Benen 8:45 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (21)

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It doesn't matter. When it's time for the cloture vote, Lieberman will come up with another excuse for voting with his fellow Republicans.

Posted by: SteveT on December 15, 2009 at 8:49 AM | PERMALINK

How many uninsured working women will die of breast cancer if Lieberman gets his way? Probably many more than his wife's efforts will ever help.

Posted by: disgusted on December 15, 2009 at 9:03 AM | PERMALINK

Follow the money?

Posted by: Marc on December 15, 2009 at 9:05 AM | PERMALINK

Lieberman once had a soul. He sold it. Cheaply. To the insurance industry.

Posted by: mudwall jackson on December 15, 2009 at 9:06 AM | PERMALINK

It's not like he's gonna vote for it, or anything like that. He took the position that might not try to filibuster it, as it is constructed now, if the CBO study says it will bend the cost curve..

Posted by: Jamie on December 15, 2009 at 9:10 AM | PERMALINK

Please, another day of incessant posting about Lieberman's perfidy would be great. Don't stop now. I wallow in this stuff.

Posted by: Common Sense on December 15, 2009 at 9:11 AM | PERMALINK

The proposal threatened his bosses newly found gravey train, but I don't think the subsidies are going to be enough to really help people in the 55-65 age group. Many of them are paying upward of $1,000 per month for crappy coverage. If the subsidies do prove to be large enough to help people in that group, lowering Medicare eligibility would have been more efficient and would have saved the taxpayers a whole boat load of money.

Posted by: Ron Byers on December 15, 2009 at 9:11 AM | PERMALINK

Hmm. Ya know, systems that people depend upon for issues of life-or-death usually have built-in redundancy. What's the problem here?

I take it that Lieberman isn't planning on running for another term in 2012...

Posted by: josef on December 15, 2009 at 9:16 AM | PERMALINK

What Lieberman is really doing is assuring Republican gains in 2010 and far beyond]. Now Americans will be forced to buy crappy insurance they can't afford, government subsidies will be inadequate and difficult to get, insurance companies will stall and abuse the "no denial for pre-existing conditions" rule because it's unenforceable, and Democrats will lose elections for the next twenty years. Way to go, Rahm!

Posted by: dalloway on December 15, 2009 at 9:19 AM | PERMALINK

Every so often, pragmatism has to yield to principle. Pass whatever health package Joe doesn't object to and then throw his sorry ass out of the caucus. It simply isn't acceptable to allow that clown to jerk the party around. If he's going to do that, let him do it as part of the Republican caucus. Yeah, 60 sounded great, but the reality is that it's unacceptable to empower that grandstanding, whining,unprincipled SOB.

Posted by: dcms on December 15, 2009 at 9:25 AM | PERMALINK

To say that subsidizing people to buy private insurance is the same as allowing to buy in to a single payer government run system is to reject to whole premise of medicare in the first place. What he is saying there is quite literally nonsense no matter how you look at it.

Posted by: brent on December 15, 2009 at 9:37 AM | PERMALINK

Lieberman is blowing up the party on his way out the door, since he doesn't plan to run for reelection. But he had plenty of help from his enablers in the White House and the Senate leadership.

Hard to believe Harry Reid was ever a wrestler.

Posted by: Susie from Philly on December 15, 2009 at 10:08 AM | PERMALINK

Why would anyone even consider that Lieberman could be counted on to negotiate in good faith or take a rational, consistent stand?

He not only backed McCain, he spoke at the Republican convention (remember, "Country First?" Ha!)

At least Arlen Specter had the courage to switch parties.

Posted by: beep52 on December 15, 2009 at 10:09 AM | PERMALINK

Redundancy is not a reason for a filibuster. Besides, there is no redundancy, since it's not like we'd be paying for overlapping systems. The medicare-buy in would undoubtedly supplant the subsidies.

Posted by: oh my on December 15, 2009 at 10:33 AM | PERMALINK

It's not about health care. Lieberman wants something, and is showing that he is in a position to demand it.

Posted by: Bob M on December 15, 2009 at 10:37 AM | PERMALINK

Check out Howard Fineman's comments on Hardball. What Lieberman really wants is to spit on anything Kos and the Blogosphere are for. Petty revenge, that's all, by a tiny, bitter little man.

Also, its nice to know that Fineman's finally hip enough to know what the word "Blogosphere" means.

Posted by: Midland on December 15, 2009 at 11:26 AM | PERMALINK

Lieberman has no soul at this point: it has, in the words of the Langston Hughes poem, "dried up like a raisin in the sun." Lieberman is a tragic example of bitterness run wild in a self-indulgent rampage designed to screw to the wall the Democrats who abandoned him in 2008. He doesn't care about his religion, his constituents, his country, or anything else except his own wounded ego and the revenge that he can wreak.

Posted by: keith on December 15, 2009 at 12:08 PM | PERMALINK

OK I'm buying into conspiracy theories. JL KNOWS he's a lying piece of garbage and SO DOES Harry Reid. It is the blogosphere that is freaking out. A deal was cut to let Joe be Joe UNTIL the vote. He's lied so many times during the year that when the final bill comes up and he votes for it, he'll spin some crap about all the changes HE MADE to the bill. Honest to god...he's an ego maniac and there isn't a person in the Senate that doesn't know it. Talk about disfunctional.

Posted by: SYSPROG` on December 15, 2009 at 12:55 PM | PERMALINK

Why are you ignoring the obvious Mr. Benen?

This "reform" bill has become an "exchange" bill for private ins.. They "exchange" pre-conditions, caps, etc. for millions of new customers forced to carry ins...even heavily subsidized by tax dollars.

The Medicare "buy-in" would remove millions of those new customers from the roles of private ins....not part of the deal Rahm Obama made when they bargained away the PO (proof of which is the WH support for a trigger over a state 'opt-out' and how angry the WH became when Reid refused the trigger--which is no PO at all).

When Reid went for the "opt out" PO...Lieberman appears and says he will support a Repub filibuster if bill has a PO. So the PO got watered down to almost nothing...plus Snowe would go for the "trigger" PO so her vote would make up for Lieberman's vote and the WH gets what they want since they already bargained away the PO
and the trigger is no PO at all.

Then to make up for it Senators introduce a Medicare buy in...something private ins cannot tolerate so here comes Lieberman saying he will support a repub filibuster again if the bill has a Medicare buy in...the WH says yeah Reid...support Lieberman. Surprise surprise.

This was not what Rahm Obama bargained for when they bargained away the PO and promised millions of new clients in their exchange deal with private ins.

Are you starting to see the clear connection between the WH and Joe Lieberman Mr. Benen?

Here's the deal breaker for private ins...SINGLE PAYER. The PO opened the door for gov. involvement in HC ins. which could be expanded later on.

The Medicare "buy in" also opens the door to single payer because if we lowered the age once then we could in the future lower it again to cover everyone ( which is what would be best for all of us except the ins. profiteers)

This HC reform/exchange bill is showing us what a corporatocracy our elected "representatives" are controlled by...and one look at Rahm Emanuel, Tim Geitner and Larry Summers should tell us there are corporate hacks advising Obama. Lieberman is just doing their bidding.

I'm still wondering how anyone could ever vote for Joe Lieberman?? He is such an apparent, self centered fraud...apparent.

Posted by: bjobotts on December 15, 2009 at 1:42 PM | PERMALINK

"And third, a redundancy is worth killing health care reform over? It's the kind of thing a senator might say if he's not negotiating in good faith."

They would if their desire was not to merely add imput to a bill, but to obtain complete control over it. "Oh, Joe doesn't like the Medicare buy-in. Well, we don't have to listen to him now, because we already have over 50 votes to pass this anyhow. Oh, Joe's planning on filibustering the vote, huh? I guess we have to listen to him now."

It's that simple. It does not get more complicated than that. He is the little kid who got into his dad's toolshed and began stalking the neighborhood with a big saw in his hands. Everyone has to listen to him now, or he swings it at you.

The U.S. Senate is completely broken.

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