Lieberman Announces Intent To Block Vote on Senate Reform Measure
On Tuesday, Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) announced that he would withhold his vote for the Senate's final health care reform bill if it included a government-run public health insurance plan, the Wall Street Journal reports. Lieberman, who usually caucuses with the Democrats, said that the bill in its current state would have to be changed significantly to secure his support (Adamy et al., Wall Street Journal, 10/28).
On Monday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said the chamber's final reform bill would include a public plan with an opt-out clause that would give states the choice not to participate.
The proposed national plan would take effect in 2013. States would be required to make a decision whether they want to participate by 2014.
To prevent a filibuster, Reid would need all members of the Senate Democratic caucus -- 58 Democrats and the two independent senators who usually align with Democrats -- to vote in favor of a procedural motion to advance the bill (California Healthline, 10/27).
On Tuesday, Lieberman pledged to vote with Democrats on a motion to start floor debate on the bill but said he would not vote for cloture, which would end further debate on the bill so that it could proceed to a full Senate vote (Bolton , The Hill, 10/27).
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," adding, "We're trying to do too much at once."
Lieberman said that Reid's plan for a public option with a state opt-out clause also would not garner his support because "it still creates a whole new government entitlement program for which taxpayers will be on the line" (Raju, Politico, 10/27).
Lieberman also opposes other variations of the public option proposal, including the "trigger" option that was introduced by Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), which would create a public plan under certain conditions (Hunter, CQ Today, 10/27).
Reid said that he respects Lieberman but that he is not the only senator to express reservations over the current state of the Senate's health reform bill, Politico reports.
Reid added, "There are a lot of senators, Democrat and Republicans, who don't like part of what's in this bill that we sent [to the Congressional Budget Office]." Reid also said, "We're going to see what the final product is. We're not there yet. Sen. Lieberman will let us get on (to begin debating) the bill and he'll be involved in the amendment process" (Politico, 10/27).
Reid Meets With Moderates
According to Politico, Lieberman's opposition has "dealt a major setback" for Reid because it hurts his chances of securing the 60 votes needed to prevent a filibuster (Budoff Brown, Politico, 10/28).
A senior Democrat said that at least 10 Democratic senators are withholding support for the bill. As a result, Reid has begun meeting with moderate Democrats, many of whom expressed displeasure with Reid's move on Monday.
Reid is offering concessions in the form of broad policies and "provisions affecting home-state industries," according to the Chicago Tribune (Hook/Levey, Chicago Tribune, 10/28).
Among the undecided Democrats are Sens. Evan Bayh (Ind.), Mary Landrieu (La.), Blanche Lincoln (Ark.) and Ben Nelson (Neb.) (Edney, CongressDaily, 10/28).
On Tuesday, Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) said, "Harry has been literally sitting down face to face with senator after senator, working through these differences," adding, "There are members that have serious concerns that are specific to their states or specific to their own set of values" (Bolton , The Hill, 10/27).
Some Democrats Devise 'Plan B'
Meanwhile, some Senate Democrats already have begun "sketching out a Plan B" to secure enough votes in the chamber, Politico reports (Politico, 10/28).
Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), a centrist, said that he is developing a public plan modeled after Snowe's trigger proposal, which would automatically enact a public option in states where certain affordability conditions are not met but would also permit certain states to opt-in if they choose, according to the Boston Globe (Wangsness/Milligan, Boston Globe, 10/28).
Carper described the plan as "more acceptable to some of our centrists" (Politico, 10/28).
Last night, PBS' "NewsHour With Jim Lehrer" included discussions of the politics of the debate over the public option and the mechanics of how the opt-out public option would work (Suarez, "NewsHour With Jim Lehrer," PBS, 10/27).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.