Lieberman again threatens to derail health care bill

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It is being reported today that today Connecticut Senator  Joe Lieberman told Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid yesterday  that he can't  support a new Medicare proposal floated as a compromise to the public option, which is not good news for Reid trying to get 60 votes on the bill before Christmas.

There have been a flurry of additions and deletions to the Senate bill, leading even some supporters like Illinois' Dick Durban to say on the Senate floor last week he wasn't sure of everything that was in the legislation that he was arguing for.

This was Lieberman yesterday on CBS Face The Nation with host Bob Schieffer:

But I will tell you that on one part of it the so-called Medicare buy-in, the opposition to it has been growing as the

week has gone on. And—and though I don't know exactly what's in it, from what I hear I

certainly would have a hard time voting for it because it has some of the same infirmities that

the public option did. It—it will add taxpayer cost. It will add to the deficit. It's unnecessary.

The basic bill which is a—has a lot of good things in it provides a generous new system of

subsidies for people between ages fifty-five and sixty-five and choice and competition. So, you

know, Bob, I think we’re at a—there’re—there’re not sixty votes for health care reform in the

Senate now. We're at a point where and—and yet the basis of the bill, covering thirty million

people can't buy insurance today, regulating insurance companies so they treat consumers

more fairly, for instance not denying them health care.

Lieberman is objecting specifically to the provision that was introduced recently that would expand Medicare to people beginning at 55 years of age, as opposed to 65, which is current law.

And what about that old favorite, the public option?  There had been reports that had gone away.  West Virginia's Jay Rockefeller is a fierce proponent of the public option.  On Face yesterday, he was asked if he could support a bill that didn't include that crucial element:

SENATOR JAY ROCKEFELLER: —I have a decision to make. I mean, I think the public option is

a fundamentally correct way to provide competition. I don't think it's a slippery slope to single-

payer system at all. I just think it's a very good ways (sic) of nonprofit. They don't have to make

any money. But my—my decision is this. Am I going to say—if the public option doesn't come

through, am I going to say, well, count me out? Or am I going to say, you know what, if we are

creative and think of other forms of—

BOB SCHIEFFER: Mm-Hm.

SENATOR JAY ROCKEFELLER: —dealing with the health insurance industry, which is public

enemy number one as far as I'm concerned in terms of the American people—

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, would you be willing-—

SENATOR JAY ROCKEFELLER: —that—that’s my option. You see, that’s what I want to do.

BOB SCHIEFFER: —would you be willing to vote for health care legislation that did not have the

public option and—and—and did not have this buy-in to Medicare which seems to be a

nonstarter for these two Senators—

SENATOR JAY ROCKEFELLER: Well, I'm very—

BOB SCHIEFFER: —who are right here.

SENATOR JAY ROCKEFELLER: —I'm very much for the buy-in because that's thirty-million-

plus Americans. Only four million and four million of them have no health insurance at all.

BOB SCHIEFFER: But would you vote for health care reform if that was not a part of it?

SENATOR JAY ROCKEFELLER: I'd—I’d have to look at the whole thing. You see, I don't like

the question, if this were not apart of it. It is a very important, very huge project. And I have to

look at the whole thing. So I’m not going to get trapped by an individual, let's say something I

have fought for and I didn't win-

There are 10 days to before Christmas.  Heaven knows how long their Congressional break is supposed to last, which is why Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (and the President) desperately want to have a vote on a bill before the holidays.  The specter of the August break, when town hall meetings got chaotic and began the concentrated opposition to the legislation, haunts Reid and the Democrats.  But if they have to vote on a bill in January, they ought to wait until then to get it right.  Either way, it needs to be resolved soon so the President can continue to work on the myriad other issues that are challenging him, and creating his poll numbers down.

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