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Memory Lane On Joe Lieberman

Reconcile the guy who wants to filibuster health care reform if he doesn’t get the bill he likes with the guy running for re-election who said all this:

WASHINGTON — After spending most of his Senate career advocating piecemeal health care reforms, Joseph I. Lieberman said Wednesday he strongly supports universal health care.

Lieberman devoted a conference call with reporters to an issue that his main rival in the U.S. Senate race, Democratic nominee Ned Lamont, has highlighted in recent days.

“I have long supported the goal of universal health care,” Lieberman told reporters. “Ned Lamont can talk about it. I’ve been doing something about it all the time I’ve been here.”

In reality, Lieberman has a long record of killing health care reform, opposing reform bills since the beginning of the Clinton Administration. But when his job security was threatened in 2006, he stepped up as a “strong supporter” of universal health care.

Lieberman has claimed that his rejection of health care reform has nothing to do with the fact that his home state of Connecticut has the highest concentration of insurance jobs in the United States. But he keeps going back to not wanting to add to the federal budget deficit, which is a complete dodge since even the President has vowed not to sign a bill unless it’s deficit-neutral. It’s a way for Lieberman to talk about his opposition without having to say he is protecting powerful interests.

A lot of this is posturing, of course. Lieberman wants to say he’s against the bill “as it stands now” to get some goodie or another out of it in the future. And if he allows the motion to proceed, we’re many weeks away from his ultimate decision. But make no mistake – Joe Lieberman has been an enemy of health care reform practically since his election to the US Senate.

UPDATE: And if the White House really has no quarrel with Reid and is four-square behind his strategy, they can prove it by leaning on Joe Lieberman to allow a final vote on the bill. After all, he owns the bill now, as Sherrod Brown said today.

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David Dayen

David Dayen