Lieberman says he’ll filibuster Medicare buy-in

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Democrats in the Senate who thought they had a compromise progressives and "centrists" could both support learned this weekend that independent Sen. Joe Lieberman can be counted on to do just about anything to sabotage health care reform.

The Connecticut senator said he will join Republicans in opposing a health care bill if it permits those without insurance as young as 55 to purchase Medicare coverage.

Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid needs 60 votes to overcome Republican opposition and need's Lieberman's vote to achieve that total.

Democratic aides, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Lieberman told Reid on Sunday that he would support a Republican filibuster against reform if it contained either the Medicare buy-in or any other measure that permitted the government to sell insurance in competition with private companies.

Democratic leaders are particularly angry because only last week Lieberman seemed to express support for the Medicare provision and had made public comments that were favorable. Six years ago Lieberman ran for Vice President on a platform that included a Medicare buy-in for people not eligible for the program.

Another so-called "moderate" senator is also pulling back from the favorable comments about the Senate compromise that he had made only a few days ago.

Sen. Ben Nelson, D., Neb., now says he is "skeptical" of the Medicare buy-in. Last Wednesday he told members of the press that, "in theory," he liked the idea. Nelson was one of a group of liberal and conservative Democrats who had hammered out the Medicare buy-in as a compromise substitute for the public option. On Thursday, however, he told reporters he was "concerned" that the Medicare buy-in would become a "vehicle for single-payer" and that he "wouldn't be surprised if this thing does not become a viable option."

Also on Friday Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Me., told reporters that she opposes the Medicare buy-in but, when pressed, did not say she would join a filibuster against it. She said she would make a decision about joining a filibuster after the Congressional Budget Office releases its report on the financial impact of the compromise bill.

With Lieberman against the compromise and Nelson and Snowe leaning against it, Senate supporters of health care reform lack the 60 votes they need to overcome a Republican filibuster.

As Lieberman, the Republicans and some of the conservative Democrats continued their maneuvering union members and religious leaders continued to mount what has become a national mass movement for health care reform that is growing by the day.

While holiday shoppers converged on the Union Square shopping district in San Francisco on Friday night, for example, religious leaders and health care activists gathered in the center of the square in solemn commemoration of the 45,000 Americans who died this year because they didn't have health insurance.

"We are fighting for the soul of America," said the Rev. Cecil Williams. "It will be tempting for Congress to get lost in the weeds of politics and succumb to the pressure to weaken reform, but we need them to remember that people count more than profits, and they cannot allow another 45,000 to die next year waiting for health care reform."

As ministers, rabbis, Islamic, Buddist and other spiritual leaders took turns reading out the names of the deceased, 300 union members, health care advocates and passers-by stood in silence, candles flickering, to pay respects to the uninsured that have died.

While many health care demonstrations feature lively rallies and energetic protests, more of them have, as the major religious holidays approach, taken on a more somber and deliberative tone.

On Chicago's South Side members of St. Margaret's Episcopal Church devoted their annual "Advent Retreat" on Saturday to the fight for health care reform.

The event, which included a viewing of the famed director Michael Moore's film "Sicko," was followed by a community forum. A member of the congregation, commenting on the role of lawmakers who oppose health care reform, said, "In so many ways, America has lost its moral bearings. This is a big challenge we all face but this is a faith community and we always have hope so we fight and we know we will win."

On the Internet, meanwhile, Lieberman's maneuvers are also drawing an outpouring of indignation and anger.

A blogger, responding to a report on, wrote, "What I hope will happen is they will go to reconciliation, strip Lieberman of all power and responsibility, and give us our freedom back by making it possible to get health insurance without corporate serfdom through a strong, money-saving public option. What I really hope is they chuck the whole sorry mess and give us Medicare for all. Why not? What good are insurance companies? They are like a cancerous growth."

Photo: The Interfaith Fellowship for Universal Health Care prepares to deliver hundreds of prayers to Sen. Lieberman last month asking for his support for the public option at his office in Hartford, Conn. The grassroots pressure on Lieberman is growing in his home state.



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  • do you people not know that the government ALREADY convers health care for the indigent?? it's called the Hill-Burton Act. look it up. in most every county in the United States at least one hospital can receive funds to take care of the uninsured by this act. do you also know that a large part of the funds for the Hill-Burton act go UNUSED each year? i agree we need health care reform, but we already have a government program in place.
    also, Medicare is take out of our paychecks. we've worked for it. it isn't 'tax dollars', it's money EARNED and you are allowed to get that money back (plus much!) when you become disabled or reach withdrawal age. do you really think people should be allowed to take part in this program who have never put in a dime? who have never worked a day in their life and have never contributed? that's like going to State Farm and insisting that everyone can get free auto insurance simply because they own a car...but not have to pay for it. let those of us who DO work and who DO pay for it, pay for them, also. and then expect State Farm to be able to financially stay alive...and provide the best service in the insurance industry. that's insane!

    Posted by , 12/15/2009 3:15pm (6 years ago)

  • Joelle, The Health Care reform movement in New Mexico is really frustrated with Lieberman's tactics. We have made sure that our Senators are still on board. do you have any ideas, how out of staters could work to influence "Mr. Insurance Company Lieberman"?

    Posted by Emil Shaw, 12/15/2009 10:25am (6 years ago)

  • It should be noted that there is a strong opposition to Sen. Lieberman's stand within his home state of Connecticut. In the last election, after losing the Democratic primary he formed his own party and got the support of the Republicans who stopped campaigning for their own standard bearer, while maintaining support from some Democrats who had voted for him in the past. That is how he won re-election. Now, most Democrats who were taken in are angry and among those on the frontlines of organizing protests against his obstruction of desperately needed health care for all. The entire year has been filled with rallies, vigils, actions by unions, churches, community organizations, visits to his offices and home, newspaper ads and letters. This story is being kept out of the mainstream press. We have tried to cover this important groundswell in the People's World, and it has been appreciated by the movement led by Health Care for America Now and the CT AFL-CIO as well as its member organizations most notably AFSCME, Connecticut Citizen Action Group and
    the Universal Health Care Foundation which was successful in gaining passage of state-wide legislation that would enable a Connecticut public option (Sustinet). To date, Sen Lieberman has acted in defiance of the democratic process, taking the opposite stand to the majority of voters in his state. The pressure continues this Thursday with a special Legislative Conference "What health care reform means to CT" involving the labor movement, economic rights and health care advocates and organzations.

    Posted by Joelle Fishman, 12/14/2009 8:20pm (6 years ago)

  • If the Senate Democrats do not go to reconcilliation to get Health Care Reform, it will be another item of evidence that the corporations always have the upper hand when it comes to federal legislation.

    To the insurance industry it is irrelevant that doctors, nurses and patients throughout the country are supporting serious health care reform. This will be one more grievance to be taken care of by a US Pitchfork and Torch Brigade, much the same as the French Revolution handled the pent up grievances of the French People at the start of the 18th and 19th century.

    Posted by Emil Shaw, 12/14/2009 8:02pm (6 years ago)

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