Lieberman: 'I Don't Think Anybody Thinks This Bill Will Pass'


Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), reaffirmed on Sunday that he will support a Republican filibuster of any health care bill that includes a government-run insurance option.

Appearing on the "Meet the Press," the Connecticut independent said that neither he, nor anybody else believed the current version of legislation will get the 60 votes needed to stop debate in the Senate.

"I voted last night as 59 others did to go ahead with the debate because I want us to begin not only debating health care reform but doing something about health care reform," Lieberman said. "But I don't think anybody feels this bill, as Senator Reid put it down -- though he made a lot of progress blending bills together -- I don't think anybody thinks this bill will pass."

Digging a bit deeper, the senator explained what exactly he found so offensive about a government-run plan.

I don't want to fix the problems in our health care system in a way that creates more of an economic crisis, either short-term to inhibit businesses from hiring more people, creating jobs, or long-term to add to the debt. And I'm convinced the public option, a government-run insurance company, basically people don't understand what it's going to do. It doesn't offer free insurance. It won't get one more poor person insurance. It won't force one insurance company to give insurance to somebody who has got a pre-existing condition. It won't even lower the cost of health insurance, which advocates said originally it would because the Congressional Budget Office has now said to us the public option in Senator Reid's bill will actually charge more for insurance than the average charge by health insurance companies. I'll tell you one thing I'm sure it will do, if we create a government insurance company, it's going to run a deficit and it's only the taxpayers that are going to pay for it. I don't want to do that.

Lieberman is offering a deeply cynical reading of the legislation. The restrictions on who can access the public plan, for instance, were put into the bill as a way to placate members of Congress like himself, who were worried about legislation sapping the private market. And the reason the public plan may charge higher premiums is due, in part, to the fact that it will have to pay negotiated rates to providers instead of a fee tied to Medicare rates. This too was added to placate conservative Democratic lawmakers. If Lieberman finds these provisions objectionable, he should be directing his opposition at his fellow centrists. Instead, he's targeting the bill itself.

"[O]nce the bill is on the floor, amendments will be offered," he said on Sunday. "But essentially every amendment is subject to a filibuster and will take 60 votes to pass. My only resort, and every other senator -- and there will be others who feel exactly the way I do about the public option, if the public option is still in there -- the only resort we have is to say no at the end to reporting the bill off the floor."

In stating his willingness to support a Republican filibuster, Lieberman joins three centrist Democrats who could potentially trip up health care reform. Sens. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, and Ben Nelson of Nebraska have likewise threatened to derail a bill unless major changes are made, specifically with regards to the public option.

Addressing these holdouts on Sunday, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), a government-run plan proponent, argued that it was unfair for four senators to have more sway than their 56 colleagues.

"I don't think they want to be on the wrong side of history," Brown told CNN's "State of the Union." "I don't think they want to say, 'On a procedural vote, I killed the most important bill of my career.'"

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