The Ben and Joe Pony Show
by Charles Lemos, Sun Dec 13, 2009 at 05:31:43 PM EST
Let's begin with the fact that Senator Joe Lieberman was asked to be a member of the so-called Gang of Ten composed of five left to progressive Democratic Senators and of five centrist to conservative Democratic Senators last week to hammer out a compromise in the healthcare bill but he failed to show up to two of the meetings and was replaced by Senator Tom Carper of Delaware. Despite his no-show, the Democratic leadership believed that they had secured Senator Lieberman's agreement to go along with a compromise the Gang of Ten had reached to overcome the impasse. Apparently not.
The story in the New York Times:
on Sunday, Mr. Lieberman told the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, to scrap the idea of expanding Medicare and to abandon the idea of any new government insurance plan, or lose his vote.
On a separate issue, Mr. Reid tried over the weekend to concoct a compromise on abortion that would induce Senator Ben Nelson, Democrat of Nebraska, to vote for the bill. Mr. Nelson opposes abortion. Any provision that satisfies him risks alienating supporters of abortion rights.
In interviews on the CBS News program "Face the Nation," Mr. Lieberman and Mr. Nelson said the bill did not have the 60 votes it would need to get through the Senate.
Senate Democratic leaders, including Mr. Reid and Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, said they had been mindful of Mr. Lieberman's concerns in the last 10 days, so they were surprised when he assailed major provisions of the bill on television Sunday. He reiterated his objections in a private meeting with Mr. Reid.
A Senate Democratic aide, perplexed by Mr. Lieberman's stance, said, "It was a total flip-flop, and leaves us in a predicament as to what to do."
Here's what it would take to get Joe's vote:
Mr. Lieberman described what it would take to get his vote. "You've got to take out the Medicare buy-in," he said. "You've got to forget about the public option. You probably have to take out the Class Act, which was a whole new entitlement program that will, in future years, put us further into deficit."
The Class Act refers to a federal insurance program for long-term care, known as Community Living Assistance Services and Supports.
Mr. Lieberman said he would have "a hard time" voting for bill with the Medicare buy-in.
"It has some of the same infirmities that the public option did," Mr. Lieberman said. "It will add taxpayer costs. It will add to the deficit. It's unnecessary. The basic bill, which has a lot of good things in it, provides a generous new system of subsidies for people between ages 55 and 65, and choice and competition."
Mr. Lieberman cautioned Senate Democrats to limit their appetite for expansive new programs.
"The bill itself does a lot to bring 30 million people into the system," Mr. Lieberman said. "We don't need to keep adding onto the back of this horse, or we're going to break the horse's back and get nothing done."
I wouldn't be bringing up horse parts there Joe, otherwise we might tempted to compare you to one.
Meanwhile Nebraska's Ben Nelson has different worries:
Mr. Nelson said he wanted to know the cost of the Medicare buy-in. "I am concerned that it's the forerunner of single payer, the ultimate single-payer plan, maybe even more directly than the public option," he said.
It should be noted that Senator Nelson was one of those aforementioned Gang of Ten pressed to find a compromise. It seems Senators Lieberman and Nelson are more interested in derailing the healthcare bill than in actively engaged in seeking a solution.
Appearing on CBS's Face the Nation, Senator Nelson said participated in the Gang of Ten simply "to be a friend of the process."
Well, with friends like that who needs enemies?