Good news for people who live in Connecticut, already have health insurance and work for Aetna, Cigna or Oxford Health Plans! According to the New York Times, Joe Lierberman (D–CT, net worth $2 million) seems finally to have succeeded in torpedoing the public option. The former Democrat announced Sunday that he would filibuster any Senate bill that included the Medicare buy-in compromise Harry Reid struck with ten liberal and centrist Democrats last week. That’s a slight difference from the position he articulated last Tuesday, when he said he was against the public option but for the expansion of Medicare, and an utter goddamn sea change from the position he articulated in 2000, when he ran for Vice President promising the exact same Medicare expansion he now threatens to filibuster the Senate to stop. How soon we forget, Joe Lieberman. Either that, or how willing we are to do whatever we think might get us elected to public office. “My wife said to me, ‘Why do you always end up being the point person here?’” Lieberman told reporters on Monday. She was probably eating caviar out of an ostrich egg at the time, and considered it rude to add, “Is it because you’re an unprincipled dwarf?” with her mouth full.
All of this meshugaas leaves the prospect of any bill passing the Senate before Christmas, um, imperiled. With all 40 Republican Senators threatening to filibuster any health care bill of any sort, since they are now officially opposed to the continued existence of the US government, Harry Reid needs sixty votes to win cloture. We now know that Lieberman will filibuster any bill that includes a public option or expanded access to Medicare, and may decide to pull the trigger for any other reason that might endear him to independents and Republicans in the 2012. Meanwhile, Roland Burris (D–IL, net worth $950k) has threatened to filibuster any bill without a public option, and Russ Feingold (D–WI, net worth $83k—ed: seriously?) has said he’ll do the same to any bill that requires Americans to buy health insurance but only includes private options. I think we can all agree that A) if the end result of the struggle for health care reform is a bill requiring all uninsured Americans to buy insurance from private carriers, it will be an astonishing coup for the insurance industry, and B) right now, that appears to be the most likely outcome.
Joe Lieberman ranked second in insurance-industry contributions among Senators in the 2006 campaign, and his career receipts total over $1 million. His wife, Hadassah Lieberman (maiden name: Christine St. Claire) has a resume full of PR work for pharmaceutical and health care corporations. But that doesn’t mean Joe Lieberman is committing the crowning act in a lifetime of loyalty to the insurance, pharmaceutical and health care industries. “It’s hogwash and it’s weak,” he said of the accusation to the New York Times. He also claimed not to remember supporting the expansion of Medicare, even after Harry Reid showed the Senator a video of himself from three months ago in which he says that he does.
So Joe Lieberman is kind of a liar. We knew that, and to be reminded of it again is like opening up the spoiled milk, smelling it and then putting it back in the fridge. The situation is gross, but can we really blame the milk at this point? Let us not forget that Joe Lieberman became an independent after he lost the Connecticut Democrats’ nomination for Senator in 2006. The message is clear: if the Democrats look out for Joe Lieberman, Joe Lieberman will look out for the Democrats. He’s a tool, but at least he’s a reliable one, and the same shit-eating loyalty that has led him to torpedo the nation for Aetna can be used to our advantage, here.
That’s why Harry Reid should cut a deal with him, and the Democratic Party should throw its entire weight behind re-electing Lieberman in 2012. I realize that seems like an immensely unfair response to one opportunist’s willingness to paralyze the federal government of the United States of America for his own benefit, but it’s too late to teach Joe Lieberman anything about integrity anyway. He’s been a Senator for 20 years, and he’s going to do what it takes to stay a Senator for six more. Lieberman is doing this because he needs Republican and independent votes in 2012, because he’s going to be running against a Democrat. But what if he weren’t? What if Joe Lieberman were welcomed back into the party with open arms, and promised all the blood and treasure he needs to ensure a landslide re-election in Connecticut?
Lieberman changed parties to win an election once already, and he’s reversed his position on Medicare in exchange for a million bucks from the insurance lobby. What would he be willing to do for a million bucks and a national party campaign machine? Surely, one little vote for cloture is worth all that. He wouldn’t even have to vote for the final package. Yesterday, Harry Reid got burnt yet again by Joe Lieberman’s lack of conscience, and it’s time he started treating Lieberman like the man he is. Buy him off, make him Senator-for-life of Connecticut, and let his flexible morals serve the country for once. Joe Lieberman may be a weasel, but it’s precisely because he’s willing to do anything to keep his seat. Harry Reid should take advantage of that and promise him whatever it will take to get his vote. It’s a poor craftsman who blames his tools, and the Senate Majority Leader needs to start working with the materials he has.