Faith leaders to Lieberman: filibuster lacks ‘conscience’

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — Connecticut faith leaders launched a “conscience” ad campaign in local and national papers today calling on Senator Joseph Lieberman to abandon plans to filibuster health care reform legislation.

The ads are part of growing national and Connecticut pressure aimed at Lieberman’s stand as the Senate nears consideration of a vote.

The ad, a letter signed by 240 Connecticut religious leaders, was published in five Connecticut daily newspapers and in the Connecticut Jewish Ledger, The Jewish Week, The Forward, and Washington Jewish Week.

Authored by Rabbi Ron Fish of Norwalk, the letter reminds Lieberman that “conscience” dictates that he support real reform. In November, Lieberman promised to join a Republican filibuster against reform “as a matter of conscience.”

Lieberman met with clergy representatives of the Interfaith Fellowship on Monday, after many requests. While the meeting was cordial, representatives told the media on Wednesday that Lieberman affirmed he would filibuster any bill that contains a public option on the grounds that it would increase the federal deficit. Arguments that the entire health care reform package would lower the deficit did not move the senator.

During the media conference call one participant who had been in the meeting with Lieberman, Rev. Santiago, emphasized “As we talk people are dying because they don’t have any insurance. I hope Sen. Lieberman and the government listen to us. We need health care and we need it now.

Rev. Pawelek reiterated, “His own constituents are dying. Fiscal responsibility does not trump the moral call to take care of the sick.”

In response to a question from the Jewish Ledger, several clergy reported that in their meeting with Lieberman on Monday “he was clear with us that if public option remains in the bill he will support a filibuster. We do not want Sen. Lieberman to stand in the way of this landmark legislation coming to the floor of the Senate for a vote up or down.”

On Nov. 15, an interfaith service was held outside Lieberman’s home in Stamford where nearly 500 constituents wrote personal prayers calling on the Senator to support quality, affordable health care reform that includes a public option. After having their prayers refused twice, on Nov. 24, clergy gathered outside the Senator’s office to deliver those prayers.

In addition to action by clergy in Connecticut, vigils have been taking place in towns around the state in favor of reform with a public option. Letter campaigns and phone banking continues, and is being stepped up by labor and others as Senate action nears. A rally for public option by doctors and nurses is planned for Saturday morning at Yale-New Haven Hospital.

Photo: Rabbi Ron Fish at a recent interfaith vigil in Connecticut. People’s World



Joelle Fishman
Joelle Fishman

Joelle Fishman chairs the Connecticut Communist Party USA. She is a Commissioner on the City of New Haven Peace Commission, serves on the executive board of the Alliance of Retired Americans in Connecticut and is an active member of many economic rights and social justice organizations. She was a candidate for Congress from 1973 to 1982, maintaining minor-party ballot status for the Communist Party in Connecticut's Third Congressional District. As chair of the CPUSA Political Action Commission, she has played an active role in the broad labor and people's alliance that defeated the ultra-right in the 2008 elections and continues to mobilize for health care, worker rights and peace.