This sizzling editorial (two words you can't often use together) in the New York Times lays out the damage Sen. Joe Lieberman has singlehandedly done to health reform. It's the best argument you could find for following the call of my colleague, Jamie Court, to dump the Senate's 60-vote "filibuster rule" that lets industry mouthpieces like Lieberman stop reforms that the majority of Americans need and want.
From the editorial:
Mr. Lieberman claims to want health care reform. And way back in
September, the senator was publicly championing a Medicare buy-in.
an interview with The Connecticut Post, he said he had been refining
his views on health care for many years and was “very focused on a
group post-50, or maybe more like post-55” whose members should be able
to buy Medicare if they lacked insurance.
This week, when there
actually seemed to be a compromise on health care that did not focus on
Mr. Lieberman, he announced that he would block the package if the
Democrats included a terrible idea — allowing people between 55 and 65
to buy Medicare.
He presented this as a principled effort to keep down federal debt, but when a Times reporter asked
about his 180-degree turn, he said he had forgotten taking his earlier
position until the Democratic leadership reminded him about it over the
Mr. Lieberman has taken more than $1 million from the
industry over his Senate career. In his 2006 re-election campaign, he
ranked second in the Senate in contributions from the industry. He
doesn’t seem to have forgotten that.
The Senate once used the filibuster rule rarely. Now it's invoked on every amendment to the health reform bill, and any other major legislation. It's a sure bet that financial reform will be ripped to pieces by the 60-vote rule in the Senate, and that climate change legislation will be stopped or diluted to the point that the oil and coal industries can smile at it.
Court's call to reduce the votes needed to move forward, or to get rid of the filibuster rule altogether, is not a small step to take. It could come back to bite progressives if the political right gains back seats in the Senate. And both parties are certainly infected by corporate influence. But the way the Senate's rules are being abused makes reforming the filibuster rule the only effective option.