The Ben and Joe Pony Show

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.

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Lieberman Must Go

Dolting Joe certainly had himself a memorable Sunday morning, one that none of us should ever forget. On Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace, the independent Senator from Connecticut said "If the public option plan is in there, as a matter of conscience, I will not allow this bill to come to a final vote."

A matter of conscience? More like a matter of protecting the pockets of Connecticut's insurance citadel.

Then on the recent tragedy in Fort Hood that left 13 dead and injured another 30, Senator Lieberman seems to have all his facts in and drawn his own conclusions. The chairman of the Senate's Homeland Security committee said that the deadly shooting at Texas' Fort Hood military base was an act of "Islamist extremism."

Senator Lieberman said while it was too early to definitively state the motives of Nidal Hasan in very his next breath he notes that the clues pointed to terrorism. The Senator who heads the Senate's Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, said initial evidence suggested that the alleged shooter, Army Major Nidal Hasan, was a "self-radicalized, home-grown terrorist."

"There are very, very strong warning signs here that Dr Hasan had become an Islamist extremist and, therefore, that this was a terrorist act," he told Fox News.

"It's clear that he was, one, under personal stress and, two -- if the reports that we're receiving of various statements he made, acts he took are valid -- he had turned to Islamist extremism," he said.

"If that is true, the murder of these 13 people was a terrorist act."

I would think that one would wait until all the evidence is in before making such pronouncements. He intends to launch a congressional investigation into the motives behind "the worst terrorist attack since 9/11."

Meanwhile the New York Times reports that there's little evidence of terrorist plot in the Fort Hood slayings.

After two days of inquiry into the mass shooting at Fort Hood, investigators have tentatively concluded that it was not part of a terrorist plot.

Rather, they have come to believe that Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the Army psychiatrist accused in the shootings, acted out under a welter of emotional, ideological and religious pressures, according to interviews with federal officials who have been briefed on the inquiry.

Investigators have not ruled out the possibility that Major Hasan believed he was carrying out an extremist's suicide mission.

But the investigators, working with behavioral experts, suggested that he might have long suffered from emotional problems that were exacerbated by the tensions of his work with veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who returned home with serious psychiatric problems.

They said his counseling activities with the veterans appear to have further fueled his anger and hardened his increasingly militant views as he was seeming to move toward more extreme religious beliefs -- all of which boiled over as he faced being shipped overseas, an assignment he bitterly opposed.

Investigators have gleaned most of their findings from Major Hasan's computer use and from interviews with his family members, co-workers and neighbors. One significant investigative thrust has involved determining whether Major Hasan had contact with extremists who preyed on his increasingly angry and outspoken opposition to American policies in Afghanistan and Iraq.

But so far, investigators have unearthed no evidence that he was directed or steered into violence or ever traveled overseas to meet with extremist groups, as defendants in some recent terrorism cases are accused of doing, the officials said.

The officials emphasized that their findings were preliminary and that the investigation was fluid. New information could alter their perceptions of Major Hasan's motives. But the early conclusions are already influencing the course of the inquiry, including which law enforcement agencies lead it.

I think it is too early to draw definitive conclusions. The investigation remains fluid. But it is long overdue to act on Joe Lieberman. It is time to strip Dolting Joe from his chairmanship and oust him from the Democratic caucus.

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The Worries of Joe Lieberman

"I want to be able to vote for a health bill, but my top concern is the deficit." So says Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, a state that is home to 72 insurance headquarters, the largest concentration of that industry in the nation. Connecticut has three times the US  average of insurance jobs as a percent of total state employment. In 2004, the insurance industry in Connecticut was a $12.2 billion dollar industry. Two years later, it hit $14.6 billion. That's a CAGR of 9.4 percent.

Sixteen of those 72 insurance companies provide health or medical service insurance. Those 16 insurance companies employ over 22,000 employees and have annual payroll of over $2.3 billion. The total annual state insurance industry payroll exceeds $6 billion. 5.5 percent of the state's gross domestic product comes from the insurance industry. But no Joe Lieberman isn't worried about their profits, he's worried about adding to the deficit.

Via The Hill:

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), one of a handful of Senate wild cards in this fall's healthcare reform debate, says his concern about the Senate bill is based on the national deficit -- not the insurers that dominate his state.

The Connecticut senator told The Hill he may support a bill that taxes insurers or cuts into their profits, but only if the federal deficit won't balloon as a result.

"Insurers aren't my biggest concern -- I sued them once when I was attorney general, and I'm not afraid to end anti-trust exemptions," Lieberman said. "I am really worried about what this could do to the deficit."

Joe, you ignorant war-monger, you. Don't lie to us pretending that you care about the deficit when you support a war in Afghanistan that as of August was running a cool $4 billion a year and that's before we consider sending more troops. Senator Lieberman just a week ago penned an op-ed in the Washington Post with Representative Ike Skelton urging the President to "commit the decisive force that will allow General McChrystal to break the Taliban's momentum as quickly as possible." In said op-ed, not one iota about costs or impact to the deficit. Well, Joe, the cost of sending an additional soldier is estimated at one million per soldier per annum.

Since the invasion of Afghanistan eight years ago, the United States has spent $223 billion on war-related funding for that country, according to the Congressional Research Service. Aid expenditures, excluding the cost of combat operations, have grown exponentially, from $982 million in 2003 to $9.3 billion in 2008.

Before you come crying to us about a deficit, look at what you are choosing to spend on and likely for naught. At least with healthcare, it is being spent on us, the American people. I can see a return on investment in healthcare, it's harder to see one on Afghanistan.

Moreover as David Dayen over at Firedoglake points out "the public option would SAVE money for the government, to the tune of $100 billion dollars over 10 years according to the Congressional Budget Office."

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