Sen. Lieberman May Try to Stop Public Option By Joining With GOP Filibuster

It's hard to remember this sometimes: Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, the former vice presidential candidate, was once a standard bearer for the Democratic Party. Today he put himself forward as the potential killer of the Democrats' signature piece of legislation: health-care reform.

Since leaving the party in 2006 when he failed to garner the support of party leaders for his re-election bid (his unqualified support for the Iraq was was the big issue), Lieberman has consistently moved further to the right, even working the rope lines on behalf of Republican presidential candidate John McCain. Yet Lieberman, an independent, has continued to caucus with the Democrats, a move that allowed him to retain his chairmanship of the Senate Homeland Security Committee.

Brian Beutler of TPM reports that Lieberman is now threatening to join with Republicans should they launch an expected filibuster that would keep the health-care proposal announced yesterday by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid from getting a final vote on the Senate floor. At issue for Lieberman is Reid's decision to include a public option in the bill.

Harry Reid has the power to strip Lieberman of his chairmanship of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and one hopes that threat will be brought to bear on him. However, it may just not matter. Clearly, Lieberman needs to be made to feel important, and he may be looking for a reason to move completely to the GOP side, once and for all. Stripping him of his chairmanship would likely give him the impetus to do so.

Why does this matter? Because it takes 60 votes to close down a filibuster, and with Lieberman and fellow independent Bernie Sanders of Vermont (fellow in only independent status; Sanders is a socialist) in the Democratic caucus, the Dems have exactly the magic number. If Lieberman high-tails it out of the Dem caucus for good, there's no 60 to hold the line on climate change or financial reform or net neutrality.  It's a nasty little game the Lieberman is playing.


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