Pardon the bad Star Wars reference; I know it was a reach, but I was struggling to come up with a title for this post.
Let's just say I'm not a fan of Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.). I didn't like him in the 1990s, when he joined up with former Wisconsin Democratic Senator Herbert Kohl to begin attacking video game content and other forms of media. That crusade has continued over the years, even as studies disprove any link between violent video games and violent behavior -- and even as the video game industry has adopted a ratings system designed to keep violent games out of the hands of children.
I didn't like Sen. Lieberman when he joined with Al Gore to run as Vice President in 2000 -- mostly because I remembered his crusade to censor video games and other forms of popular media. I didn't like Lieberman this past election cycle when he decided to campaign on behalf of Republican presidential nominee John McCain.
An independent caucusing with the Democrats campaigning on behalf of Republicans -- there has to be some sort of punishment for that, right? Apparently not; Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid decided earlier this year that Lieberman would not lose his chairmanship of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs.
How does Lieberman thank Reid for not punishing him? By threatening to help Republicans filibuster a health care reform bill if it includes a public option. Lieberman is opposed to a public option, even though Connecticut has one, covering nearly 10,000 people, according to Countdown's Keith Olbermann.
Why is Lieberman against the public option, even in its current opt-out format? The health insurance industry -- which is vehemently fighting reform -- has a large presence in Connecticut; there are eight separate companies from which to purchase insurance in the state, including industry giant Aetna.
Aetna and Cigna are based in Connecticut.
Lieberman has received a combined $1,144,604 from insurance companies, health professionals and pharmaceutical companies since 2005. Think that money, combined with the industry's presence in Connecticut, has something to do with Lieberman's stance?
As a point of reference, the other Senator from Connecticut, Democrat Chris Dodd -- whom Ralph Nader once called "the Senator from Aetna" -- has received $2.3 million in contributions from the insurance industry in the last 20 years. Only difference is, Sen. Dodd is a huge proponent of the public option, seeing its inclusion in the HELP Committee bill passed over the summer.
Sen. Lieberman said he would not filibuster to prevent debate on the bill -- which is where Senators can offer amendments to change the bill before it comes to a final vote -- but that if a public option survives that process, he would be inclined to join the Republican minority in filibustering -- thus blocking the bill from a vote.
The Republican minority is so small -- there are only 40 in the chamber -- they would need someone who caucuses with the Democrats to join the filibuster effort. Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) and Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) have been likely candidates, because of their opposition to the public option, but Sen. Lieberman is the first Senator to publicly say he would aid the filibuster effort.
At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, Sen. Lieberman could kill health care reform.
Then again, Sen. Lieberman has never voted in favor of filibuster before, even if it involved a bill he would vote against. This could be nothing more than political posturing, publicly assauging the concerns of his donors, while secretly telling Democratic leadership he would allow the bill to come to a vote, even if he votes against said bill.
But, if Lieberman does let the Republicans filibuster, there should be consequences. Not just in terms of Connecticut residents voting him out of office -- though Connecticut voters overwhelmingly support the public option -- but in terms of his chairmanship.
If I'm Sen. Reid, I tell Lieberman that if he supports a filibuster, he will be stripped of his chairmanship. Then, if Lieberman goes through with his threat anyway, I make good on that threat. This issue is far too important to delay to death; issues like this are exactly why we gave Democrats a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate in the first place.
But what do I know? I'm just a liberal with a blog.