Monday, November 2, 2009

Lieberman and the Filibuster, Still

I almost never disagree with Ta-Nesihi Coates, but I will this time, at least on one narrow point:
I was in the camp of people who thought that Lieberman shouldn't be punished for his endorsement of McCain. I was very wrong. Lieberman now says he will endorse other Republicans in upcoming election. I don't see how you allow a guy like that to remain in any sort of position of power. I just don't see it. If he wants to be an independent, that's fine. But make him an independent.
I think his old position was correct. Will Lieberman, ultimately, be the 41st vote to stop health care reform? Maybe. He says he will, but Harry Reid doesn't think so, and he knows more about it than anyone else outside of Holy Joe's brain. Would Lieberman, had he been thrown out of the Democratic caucus after 2008, be the 41st vote to stop health care? Granted, none of us can say for sure, but I think it's clear that Lieberman would have wound up far more firmly in the GOP camp if the Dems had given him the boot a year ago. Not only would that mean, in my view, that he would now be a clear vote against cloture on health care, but it also means he probably would have been a vote against the stimulus and other key bills earlier in the year.

In part, that's because I agree with those who believe that Holy Joe is motivated by spite. But it's also because the Democrats, by leaving him with his committee, retained the leverage to punish him for future transgressions.

I will say this: now is the time for Dems to cash in that leverage. If Lieberman votes with 40 Republicans against 59 Democrats on cloture for health care reform, there's no longer any reason to keep him in the caucus, and it's totally reasonable for Democrats to threaten him with loss of his committee over this one.

I should also say that Lieberman is mostly talking nonsense about health care. Within the Face the Nation visit that TNC describes, Lieberman said the following:

1. There was no mention of the public option in the 2008 campaign.

He's right that it wasn't a big campaign issue, but PolitiFact says that it was, in fact, part of the Obama plan from the campaign.

2. The public option would be a new entitlement.

That's wrong; the public option would not be an entitlement.

3. There's broad agreement on a bipartisan bill without a public option.

Clearly wrong: the Senate Finance Committee plan had no public option, but of the Republicans only Olympia Snowe voted for that bill. Nor did any Republican Senator on the committee describe the bill as a tough vote, or say that he would vote for a similar bill with small changes. Nor did any Republican Senator outside of the committee sign up for the Finance Committee version. It may be that there is some bipartisan solution theoretically available, although I'm with Brendan Nyhan and Matt Yglesias that it isn't. What is absolutely certain, from the Finance Committee bill, is that the public option is not the thing preventing such a bill.

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