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Joe Lieberman won’t help the Dems get the health-care bill to the floor

Joe Lieberman won’t help the Dems get the health-care bill to the floor
By Eric Black

Politico reports that Sen. Joe Lieberman says flatly that he won’t vote for cloture to bring about a floor vote on the health care bill that Majority Leader Harry Reid announced yesterday. Lieberman opposes the public option, even with the opt-out mechanism.

Reid said yesterday that he had the votes to bring the bill to the floor, but Lieberman’s statement (coupled with Olympia Snowe’s bad reaction to yesterday’s news) calls that into doubt. Reed needs 60 votes for cloture. If he doesn’t have Sen. Snowe (the price of getting her apparently would have been the “trigger mechanism” for a public option instead of an  opt-out mechanism), he would need every member of his caucus, 58 Democrats plus two independents who caucus with Democrats. Lieberman, a former Dem.,  is one of the two independents. His statement to Politico was quite clear:

“We’re trying to do too much at once,” Lieberman said. “To put this government-created insurance company on top of everything else is just asking for trouble for the taxpayers, for the premium payers and for the national debt. I don’t think we need it now.”

Lieberman added that he’d vote against a public option plan “even with an opt-out” because it still creates a whole new government entitlement program for which taxpayers will be on the line.” 

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His comments confirmed that Reid is short of the 60 votes needed to advance the bill out of the Senate, even after Reid included the opt-out provision. Several other moderate Democrats expressed skepticism at the proposal as well, but most of the wavering Democratic senators did not go as far as Lieberman Tuesday, saying they were waiting to see the details.

Lieberman did say he’s “strongly inclined” to vote to proceed to the debate, but that he’ll ultimately vote to block a floor vote on the bill if it isn’t changed first. 

“I’ve told Sen. Reid that if the bill stays as it is now I will vote against cloture,” he said.

“I can’t see a way in which I could vote for cloture on any bill that contained a creation of a government-operated-run insurance company,” Lieberman added. “It’s just asking for trouble – in the end, the taxpayers are going to pay and probably all people will have health insurance are going to see their premiums go up because there’s going to be cost shifting as there has been for Medicare and Medicaid.”