Hello all. Apologies for leaving the weekend unattended. I actually haven’t been on the Internets since Friday night.

So, anything happening?

Well, there’s Joe Lieberman blowing up the health care deal. Although, it never really was a deal to begin with. Lieberman and other conservatives expressed their doubts about the plan from the moment it was unveiled. Nobody actually knows to this day what is in the deal, making the concept of a “deal” dubious. So I think it’s more accurate to say that Lieberman blew up, or attempted to blow up, any semblance of a health care bill, period. And this after a brief period of constructiveness:

“Lieberman’s position came as a surprise to Reid, considering the self-described Independent Democrat was among the first people Reid spoke to about the Medicare provision when it was discussed by a Democratic group of centrists and liberals attempting to craft a compromise that could secure the votes of all 60 Members of the Democratic Conference. At the time, Lieberman ‘voiced support’ for the plan, according to a Senate Democratic leadership aide.”

If this is true, then Lieberman simply waited a few days to see where liberals would fall with the Medicare buy-in plan, and then, as soon as some expressed support, he “decided” he was against it.

Joe Lieberman does not have a problem with the public option or Medicare buy-in or the CLASS Act or whatever other provision he says is a deal-breaker so much as he has a problem with liberals. Any victory for them is a defeat for him. And since they wouldn’t elect him President, and since they mobilized to try and take his Senate seat, he will spend the rest of his days denying them a victory. That’s the psychodrama behind these health care talks, with a little protection of the lucrative Connecticut insurance industry thrown in for good measure.

Incidentally, Ben Nelson continues to assert himself on this bill, and won’t vote for it until women’s rights are quashed:

On a separate issue, Mr. Reid tried over the weekend to concoct a compromise on abortion that would induce Senator Ben Nelson, Democrat of Nebraska, to vote for the bill. Mr. Nelson opposes abortion. Any provision that satisfies him risks alienating supporters of abortion rights […]

Details were sketchy. Under one idea, some health plans receiving federal subsidies could offer optional coverage for abortion, but they could not use federal money to pay for the procedure. They would have to use money taken from premiums paid by subscribers and would have to keep it separate from federal money […]

In hopes of placating opponents of abortion, Mr. Reid is also considering an increase in the federal tax credit for adoption of children and a new program to provide services to pregnant high school and college students.

We’re basically where we were for the original bill, with 56 or so supporters (the “deal” may have brought us to 58) and a tiny minority of the Democratic caucus in the Senate holding up a bill sought for generations by Democrats.

I think we’re beyond placating Lieberman, who apparently signaled his intention to filibuster to Reid’s face. He’d extract and extract and extract until the bill became politically unpalatable to everyone but him. The fact that the CLASS Act, which has been in the bill for weeks, suddenly has become a concern, shows that there’s no good-faith bargaining going on here.

And if Lieberman cared about his committee assignment, he surely isn’t showing it. Whether or not it has been offered for termination, I don’t think it matters, because the behavior is not one where Lieberman is showing that he cares about the implications of his actions.

In this environment, there really is only one path to passing a bill that can get the necessary support in the House and Senate, and that’s through the budget reconciliation process. It wouldn’t be this bill, and certainly a lot would have to change to satisfy the rules regarding reconciliation. But Joe Lieberman intends to whittle this bill down to something that cannot attract 60 Democratic votes in the Senate or a majority in the House. He means to kill this bill, not improve it. And the only path to a victory is one where he has no say in the outcome. Otherwise, he will frustrate, elongate and upend the process.

The question now is which Democratic Senators are willing to say publicly that reconciliation is now the only path to a health care bill. That will be the focus of FDL News today, to find those Senators.

David Dayen

David Dayen