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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Liberals Livid With Obama, Reid and Lieberman Over Medicare Buy-In Collapse

Showing the video of Joseph Lieberman and Ben Nelson on "Face the Nation" again because it has kicked off a firestorm in the media and the blogosphere.

The story yesterday was that Joseph Lieberman stated clearly that any form of the public option, including the Medicare buy-in option for people 55+, would cause him in joining a Republican filibuster of Obamacare, making it almost impossible for Harry Reid to obtain the 60 votes necessary to move his healthcare reform bill forward.

Democratic aides, and liberals across the blogosphere, complained that Lieberman had offered support for the Senate bill pieced together by the Senate, then "flip flopped" and his words on "Face the Nation" were a "surprise".

Later word came out that Joe Lieberman spoke with Reid on Friday and did, indeed, tell him of his concerns, then spoke with him again after his "Face the Nation" appearance and told him straight up he would vote to filibuster any bill with the aforementioned proposals attached.

Caught up? Good.

Today, the news is flying fast and furiously, reports saying the White House, via Rahm Emanuel, had a little talk with Harry Reid on Sunday evening and encouraged Reid to "cut a deal" with Lieberman.

Rahm Emanuel visited Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in his Capitol office on Sunday evening and personally urged him to cut a deal with recalcitrant Sen. Joe Lieberman, two Democratic sources familiar with the situation told the Huffington Post.

Emanuel, President Obama's chief of staff, has long been identified as leading a faction of White House advisers who have been pushing the Senate simply to pass any health care bill, no matter how weak.

His direct message to Reid (D-Nev.), according to a source close to the negotiations: "Get it done. Just get it done."

The White House is denying the reports, saying "The report is inaccurate."

“The report is inaccurate,” said Dan Pfeiffer, White House communications director. “The White House is not pushing Senator Reid in any direction. We are working hand-in-hand with the Senate leadership to work through the various issues and pass health reform as soon as possible.”

But the source reaffirmed the account, saying that the White House recommended that Reid cut a deal with Lieberman that would allow the health reform bill to pass by Christmas, and that Reid wanted more time before making a final decision.

Also, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin told POLITICO, “The White House is encouraging us to find 60 votes and to preserve some of the most important parts of the bill.”

He added: “I don’t want to go into the specifics – we want Sen. Lieberman’s support.”

We have seen this push and pull before on other matters. Like when the news first broke that Obama would send an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan, original responses from the White House is that the news was inaccurate.... yet a month later, Obama made a speech and did authorize 30,000 more troops.

They seem to leak news, then deny the news, then it turns out the original stories were more accurate than the White House initially claimed.

After Lieberman's appearance on "Face the Nation", his talk with Harry Reid and Emanuel's visit to Reid, there was a special 90-minute meeting on Monday, reported on by the New York Times:

Senate Democratic leaders said Monday that they were prepared to drop a proposed expansion of Medicare and scrap a new government-run health insurance plan as they tried to rally their caucus in hopes of passing the bill before Christmas.

After a tense 90-minute meeting on Monday evening, Senator Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana and chairman of the Finance Committee, was asked if Democrats were likely to jettison the Medicare proposal.

“It’s looking like that’s the case,” Mr. Baucus said, indicating that the provision might be dropped as a way of “getting support from 60 senators.”


Starting with the politician's reactions, via The Hill:

Senator Evan Bayh(D)- "The general consensus was that we shouldn’t make the perfect the enemy of the good, and if we’re going to get all the insurance reforms accomplished and a number of other things [and] dropping the Medicare expansion was necessary, well then that’s what should be done and it appeared that would be necessary to get the 60 votes."

Senator Jay Rockefeller(D)- "At some point you have to switch from the sentiment, the emotion of the words, to the facts. And then you’ve got to decide, ‘If I didn’t get what I want, in the form that I wanted it, am I willing to cashier 31 million Americans? I want a bill.’"

Senator Tom Harkin(D)- "But there’s enough good stuff in this bill that we should move ahead with it. That’s just reality. You play the hand that’s dealt you."

Liberals are also posting video and news article from a time when Lieberman did think a Medicare buy-in was a good idea and claiming he is flip flopping to throw a wrench in the works.

A spokesman for Lieberman clears that matter up by pointing out that times have changed.

“This is nine years later, and we have a huge national deficit and a program that analysts indicate is in dire fiscal straits in 2009," Lieberman spokesman Marshall Wittmann said. "If anyone believes that the situation has not changed, they also believe that Tiger Woods is not a controversial figure at this moment."

Plum Line posts a video of Lieberman three months ago, speaking about the Medicare-Buy-in, also claiming this latest demand to drop it, is a flip flop and the Daily Beast posts another Leiberman spokesperson's response to that accusation.

Another spokesperson for Lieberman, Erika Masonhall, told The Daily Beast that Lieberman only dropped his support for the measure after the Baucus bill was voted out of the Senate Finance Committee, and only because it included a provision limiting the added amount insurers could charge on premiums based on a customer's age.

"Senator Lieberman has long been concerned about making health care more affordable, especially for those over the age of 55 and not yet eligible for Medicare. One idea that has been discussed for years is expanding Medicare to people younger than 65," Masonhall explained to The Daily Beast via email. "Senator Lieberman's comment reported by the Connecticut Post in September was made before the Finance Committee reported out the Baucus bill, which contained extensive health-insurance reforms, including a more narrow age rating for pricing health-insurance premiums and extensive affordability credits that would benefit this specific group of individuals. These health-insurance reforms and affordability credits have been strengthened in Senator Reid's Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and will provide even greater relief for those 55-65 years old. Any inclusion of a Medicare buy-in for that same age group would be duplicative of what is already in the bill, would put the government on the hook for billions of additional dollars, and would potentially threaten the solvency of Medicare, which is already in a perilous state. The senator also has concerns that this provision would result in cost-shifting that would drive up premiums for others, including those with employer-based coverage."

Liberal Anger

Despite acknowledging the White House's agenda, over at FireDoglake, they are willing to put the blame for dropping the Medicare buy-in deal, directly into Reid's lap:

Joe gets his way by giving Obama what he wanted anyway. Sweet. The weak and ineffectual/corrupt Reid will no doubt find a way to do just that. And Byron Dorgan’s drug reimportation bill that Harry Reid is blocking from coming to the floor? Well, we probably won’t see that either. Because it’s not part of the White House’s PhRMA deal, it can’t be in the bill. And if we’ve discovered one thing, it’s that the White House and Harry Reid will do anything to deliver on those secret deals.

Sorry, Harry Reid, you’re the one that takes the hit for this. If you let Lieberman lead you and the country around by the nose, it doesn’t matter who asked you to do it. Slipping in “annual limits” on coverage, manipulating procedure only when there’s something you really want, and then shrugging your shoulders and calling yourself a prisoner of the Senate parlimentarian when you want to facilitate some massively unpopular clause in the interest of the insurance industry — it’s all going to come to rest on you. Personally. I promise.

Washington Monthly:

WHITE HOUSE INCLINED TO PAY LIEBERMAN'S RANSOM.... Joe Lieberman has a gun to health care reform's head, and is demanding tidy sum. The White House has reportedly sent word to the hostage negotiators: "Pay the man."

Talk Left seems to understand where the blame falls on the collapse of the Medicare buy-in, on Obama and the White House's shoulders:

I think what Reid is REALLY saying is 'you cut the deal with him. Out in the open. So everyone knows who to blame. I have a tough election next year. You don't. I saw what you did to Dodd. You ain't doing it to me.' At least, if I was Reid, that is what I would be saying.

Talk Left is right. Reid is facing serious challenges and is trailing his Republican rivals in the polls and is fighting for his political life, and losing already.


It's an effective tactic to play on liberal guilt, arguing "don't you want to save all those poor people who are going to die?" But the fact remains that we the people handed this President and this Congress control of the White House, the US House of Representatives, and filibuster-proof control of the US Senate. We handed them a GOP that was in tatters, and a populace that desperately wanted change. And they blew it. They gave us weakness and cowardice and fear in return. The President went back on his promises from almost day one, and then stayed out of the entire debate until - well - he's still not really involved in the debate, other than to occasionally have his staff secretly try undercut his own campaign promises.

It's not a success when you could have had an A, and instead get a D+, strive for a D+, and then have the nerve to say "look mom!" It's really getting tiresome hearing Democrats suggest that because their bill does more than George Bush would have done, but otherwise they've gutted their most important campaign promises, we should suck it up and be happy. I voted for change, not pennies.

You had the best chance in decades to make a difference in all of our lives, and you chose to blow it. You don't deserve our praise. Or our votes.

Lee Stranahan at Huffington post is laying the blame directly on Obama and making no bones about it.

Whatever happens with this bill, one thing is now crystal clear - the White House is calling the shots and they want a bill that's a giveaway to the insurance industry with no real protections, public option, or Medicare rollback. There is NO standard here except passing a bill.

Oh. And the White House is willing to lie about it, too.

Enough. It is now time for anyone who supported Barack Obama in 2008 to let the President know loud and clear that this is not what we voted for it. This isn't a question of liberals whining. This isn't about piling on the President.

We didn't elect Barack Obama to pass a health reform bill that Joe Lieberman and his insurance cronies approve of.

It's time for Obama voters to be outraged. Many of us voted for Obama because we felt he was different -- after all, he told us he was different. He said he wasn't about politics as usual. Okay, now we know that's not true. Let's be adults and act like it.

Barack Obama is just another politician; willing to lie on the campaign trail to get elected. Then treat him like any other politician. He understands votes so let him know he won't be getting yours, especially in the primary. That's the language that people like Rahm Emanuel understand.

Stranahan concludes with "It's time to do what Barack Obama asked us to do - hold him accountable. This is totally unacceptable, Mr. President. Start acting like the man we elected or you have three years left in the job."


If Rahm Emmanuel is all he was supposed to be, we can safely assume that the Obama White House either never gave a shit about health care reform, or they managed health care reform so horrifically and incompetently that they are now willing to settle for a “win”, no matter how meager.

I hope they enjoy their Pyrrhic victory because they just burned the base.

Markos Moulitsas, founder of Daily Kos twitters "Insurance companies win. Time to kill this monstrosity coming out of the Senate."


There is no point in pretending that President Obama wanted any comprehensive bill to pass. There was zero pressure on Lieberman to cave, no talk of using the budget reconciliation process--only pressure on Reid to give Lieberman everything.

Organizing for America will get a rude awakening when they try to round up canvassers and phone bankers.

Campaign Diaries:

There are obviously other factors than Lieberman at play here, starting with the White House. Beyond the very limited leadership Obama has exercised on the issue (urging Democrats to follow the lead of their most moderate senators could only get the party so far), he has long since emerged as an obstacle rather than a proponent of a public option. Now, there are mounting reports that Rahm Emanuel visited Reid’s office today to essentially order him to give Lieberman what he wants - including dropping anything resembling a public option (including a trigger) and the Medicare buy-in.

It might not have yielded any positive result for the White House to pressure Lieberman the way they’ve been known to browbeat liberals; but the fact that it took less than 24 hours between Lieberman’s comments and the administration’s decision to grant him what he wants (rather than, say, agitate the threat of reconciliation) suggests first that they did not need much convincing that these were acceptable concessions and seocnd that there is next to no point at which they would consider alternative routes to giving Lieberman free reign.

The liberal anger and their reactions in the blogosphere go on, and on and on..... and more are coming out faster than I can keep up.

You can see the blog buzz over this issue at Memeorandum.

Push and Pull

Back to the push, pull, give a little to take away more and simply keep the far left base running in circles before stabbing them in the back, we have all this liberal anger, all this ink dedicated to the negotiations going on and when all is said and done, it still has to go back to the House to be reconciled with their monstrosity of a bill and a "key House liberal", co-chairman of the House Progressive Caucus Raul Grijalva, says the Senate bill as it is shaping to be now is "irreconcilable" with what the House progressives demand and will not make it through the House.

Of the House-passed version and the bill emerging out of the Senate, Grijalva said: “They are irreconcilable. And if we get something from the Senate that basically replicates what we have now in the [health care] system, I think it’s going to have a difficult time, if not an impossible time, getting through the House.”

Grijalva, D-Ariz., said he sees little chance of finishing health care this year -- and urged Democratic leaders to slow things down to allow all voices to be heard.

“I don’t see that till after the new year, and after we return from our break, because I think there are too many questions,” he said. “And to try to steamroll something where there is no conference, where there is no real debate about the content, I think would be a serious mistake. And it’s something that I and many colleagues could not support.”

Grijalva said the 80-plus members of the progressive caucus will insist on a conference committee to work out differences between the House and Senate bills, despite talk of using the so-called “ping-pong” legislative strategy that would send the Senate-passed bill directly to the House floor for an up-or-down vote.

“We need to have a conference. This cannot occur without a conference,” he said. “And then, today, with the Lieberman announcement that basically guts any issue dealing with what pretends to be a public option or the Medicare buy-in basically challenges that and in fact threatens that, then any conference -- anything that comes out of the Senate would be devoid of what was in the House bill, and so a conference is required. We’re concerned about taxing health benefits, we’re concerned about not having a public option that’s defined.”

It is like watching puppies chase their own tails.