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Lieberman A No On Cloture For Health Care Bill?

There are a couple competing reports out from Politico and the Associated Press, though they may not compete so much. The AP says that Lieberman is “strongly inclined” to move the health care bill to the floor for debate, but Politico counters that he would join a Republican filibuster of the bill. So which is right?

Actually, it looks like they both are. There are basically two 60-vote hurdles. The first is the “motion to proceed” to a floor debate on the bill, which the Republicans would require. Lieberman would not seek to join that. But according to this interview with Politico, he would join the GOP on the SECOND 60-vote hurdle, the motion to end debate and move to a final vote, otherwise known as cloture.

“We’re trying to do too much at once,” Lieberman said. “To put this government-created insurance company on top of everything else is just asking for trouble for the taxpayers, for the premium payers and for the national debt. I don’t think we need it now.” […]

Lieberman did say he’s “strongly inclined” to vote to proceed to the debate, but that he’ll ultimately vote to block a floor vote on the bill if it isn’t changed first.

“I’ve told Sen. Reid that if the bill stays as it is now I will vote against cloture,” he said.

That vote would come well down the road, of course, after weeks of floor debate. And Lieberman’s justification on this is just nonsense – 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. It also would cost nothing to the taxpayer, being financed by individual premiums.

This is only trouble for the health care bill if you believe Lieberman will carry out his threat, and if you believe that 60 votes are actually necessary for deficit-reducing elements of the bill like the public option that could go through reconciliation. But after yesterday’s sunny optimism, it’s clearly a setback. It’s preferable, however, to a “silent filibuster” where Senators don’t have to make their positions known. Harry Reid at least smoked Joe Lieberman out of his hole.

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David Dayen

David Dayen