Is Joe Lieberman Bluffing, or Would He Really Torpedo Health-Care Reform?

OK, the Dems had a choice of strategies to get around an inevitable GOP-led filibuster of any health-care bill with a public option.

The bill they have in the House has a public option. They could have gotten a really watered-down bill without the measure through the Senate, used the popular momentum for a public choice to add it during the the reconciliation process (in which the House and Senate bills are combined) and then done a full-court press to pass the final product. 

Most Congressional observers doubt that the handful of cantankerous Democrats in the Senate who might join a filibuster of the Senate bill the first time around would have the nerve to block the legislation if it came back from the reconciliation process with some compromise public plan. Which would have left the insurance caucus Dems -- Joe Lieberman, Ben Nelson, Evan Bayh, Blanche Lincoln and other sell-outs -- out of the limelight.

But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid promised to deliver a bill with some form of public insurance option. That moves the process along significantly and, as The Hill reports, may help progressives in the House get a "robust" version of the scheme through the lower chamber, as the details of their bill get ironed out. (See Booman for more on the process stuff.)

But because Reid doesn't have the votes so far to bring his bill to a vote -- and may not even have enough to begin debate on its provisions -- it's a high-risk move, in large part because it empowers so-called "moderate" Senate show-boats like Joe Lieberman, who promptly announced that he would likely join a Republican filibuster of the reform package. Whatever else he believes, Lieberman's all about the attention and he's got an abundance of it right now.

At this time, I'd like to just remind readers that when progressives backed Ned Lamont in the primary against Lieberman in 2006, Harry Reid came to his defense by swearing that Old Joe was "with us on everything but the war" in Iraq.

Anyway, sour grapes aside, the buzz today is about whether Lieberman can be moved. Is he being cantankerous now to puff up his own chest and make the liberals who had the chutzpah to beat him in a Democratic primary chafe but will eventually come around? Or is he really prepared to almost single-handedly blow up the whole year-long legislative process during its final act if he doesn't get his way?

A sampling of what some smart observers are saying about that question after the jump ...

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