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Lieberman to Filibuster — And What’s Obama Going to Do?

Lieberman says he’ll join a Republican filibuster if he’s not happy with the final Senate bill:

“I told Senator Reid that I’m strongly inclined–i haven’t totally decided, but I’m strongly inclined–to vote to proceed to the health care debate, even though I don’t support the bill that he’s bringing together because it’s important that we start the debate on health care reform because I want to vote for health care reform this year. But I also told him that if the bill remains what it is now, I will not be able to support a cloture motion before final passage. Therefore I will try to stop the passage of the bill.”

Lieberman will vote for cloture that allows debate on the bill, but he says he’ll take the historic and unprecedented move of joining the opposition party to break the caucus’s “filibuster proof majority” if the final bill includes a public option.

Quelle coincidence! Just when triggers looked like they were dead. Here comes Lieberman to save the day. Joe, you see, like Susan Collins, prefers Rahm’s Obama’s Olympia Snowe’s triggers.

The big question is whether Lieberman will face pressure from the White House–because if he doesn’t, the search for “why Obama supports the public option but won’t actually do anything about it” excuses will have to get awfully creative.

Obama called Jay Rockefeller and twisted his arm to vote for the Finance Committee bill. So, a call to Lieberman really isn’t too much to ask. And if the President lets Senate Democrats know he wants Lieberman’s gavel to get yanked, they probably will go along at this point–especially if the Majority Leader is calling for the same thing. I doubt many in the Senate will be happy about having him undermine the caucus like this.

All of Lieberman’s power in the Senate comes from his chairmanship of the Homeland Security Committee. Without it, he’s nothing. And since he’s not going to vote with the Democrats on procedure anyway (and why should he — they’ve coddled him all along, given him everything he wants, and gotten nothing for it) having him in the caucus is meaningless.

I wrote this when Obama made phone calls to Senate Democrats on Lieberman’s behalf, urging them to let him keep his gavel:

This isn’t about Joe Lieberman maintaining membership in a country club as a matter of feel-good “bipartisanship.” There’s actually a job that needs doing here, and when Chris Dodd and Evan Bayh say that they want Lieberman to retain his chairmanship, they are saying that the extraordinary waste, graft, greed and cronyism that have built the Department of Homeland Security to a bloated, ineffectual taxpayer-funded behemoth under Joe Lieberman is just fine.

Here’s Naomi Klein from the Shock Docrine:

In just a few years, the homeland security industry, which barely existed before 9/11, has exploded to a size that is now significantly larger than either Hollywood or the music business. Yet what is most striking is how little the security boom is analysed and discussed as an economy, as an unprecedented convergence of unchecked police powers and unchecked capitalism, a merger of the shopping mall and the secret prison.

No-bid contracts kept from public scrutiny in the name of “national security” have built a department of unprecedented waste and theft, all rubber stamped and protected from Senate investigation by Joe Lieberman’s chairmanship. And what has it gotten us? Nothing. Basically, the Department of Homeland Security became just another front for the military industrial complex to feed off American taxpayers while neocons like Lieberman screamed “terror terror terror, just trust us.”

It’s really, really hard to believe that Lieberman is off the reservation here. He owes his chairmanship to Obama’s and Reid’s intercession after what he did during 2008.

If Obama truly does support the public option, he’ll be twisting Joe’s arm. Likewise, Harry Reid.

If they don’t, if Reid and Obama protect his chairmanship — or water down the bill to get his “support” — we’ll know it was all just a nice bit of theater. If Rahm isn’t busting his chops and leaking to Mike Allen, it’ll be a conspicuous “wink wink, nudge nudge, thanks Joe for a job well done.”

And there will be no doubt that the Democrats needs a new Majority Leader, even if we’ve got to suffer another Republican jackass in the Senate to make it happen.

Call Nevada Democrats now and keep up the pressure on Harry Reid

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Jane Hamsher

Jane Hamsher

Jane is the founder of Her work has also appeared on the Huffington Post, Alternet and The American Prospect. She’s the author of the best selling book Killer Instinct and has produced such films Natural Born Killers and Permanent Midnight. She lives in Washington DC.
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