Lieberman is Man in Middle of Health Debate

One-time veep candidate-turned Independent holds pivotal vote

By Caitlin Millat
|  Tuesday, Dec 15, 2009  |  Updated 4:00 AM PDT
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Just Your Average Joe-Bama

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The health-care debate is -- surprise -- stalled in the Senate, where Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman holds a key vote.

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The health-care debate is -- surprise -- stalled in the Senate, where the man with all the cards is Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), the former Democratic vice presidential candidate later spurned by his party in a primary.

With bipartisanship out the window, Senate Dems suddenly need Lieberman in order to wield a bulletproof, 60-seat majority. He's used his newfound clout to help kill the public option and an expanded Medicare package favored by Sen. Harry Reid & Co. But his old party still doesn't know how to get him on board, and maybe they can't.

  • Forget about him, Greg Saunders writes on the Huffington Post, telling Senate Dems the only way they're getting any worthwhile version of health reform passed is if they cut the extra Lieberman fat. "From this point forward, it should just be assumed that the Democratic caucus has 59 members," Saunders writes.
  • Peter Suderman writes on Reason.com that Lieberman could just as easily change his mind about the bill next week -- and that his motivation for powering through lefties in the Senate is just to flex his newfound muscles. "It's not clear whether Lieberman actually wants something specific from the legislation or whether, like General Zod in 'Superman II,' he simply wants to show Senate Democrats...that he is strong and they are weak," he writes.
  • Like it or not, health reform advocates have to shape their agenda around Lieberman, who holds the keys to passing the bill in a Senate full of grumbling Republicans, Matthew Yglesias writes on ThinkProgress. "Lieberman has unlimited control over what happens, and no incentive to compromise, Yglesias writes, "so it shouldn't surprise anyone that he's being uncompromising."
  • Since Lieberman won't cave, the only option for Dems like Harry Reid is to create a bipartisan, compromising bill that could get some GOP support, Grace-Marie Turner writes on the National Review's Critical Condition blog. "The only way Democrats are going to regroup and pass health reform in 2010 is with a smaller bill that includes bipartisan ideas," Turner writes.

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