Thursday, October 29, 2009

Slow Burn with a Fast Fuse

  1. Jason L. Says:
    I think it would be hilarious if someone challenged Lieberman for the Connecticut-for-Lieberman party nomination. They could argue that Lieberman has failed to uphold the historical values and positions of Joe Lieberman.
Paul Begala:
Sen. Lieberman is always there when we don't need him. Don't ask him to do more than that. It's just too much.
Matthew Yglesias:
The Senate Republican caucus is organized, like the House caucuses of both parties, like a partisan political organization whose objective is to advance the shared policy objectives of the party. The Senate Democratic caucus, by contrast, is organized like a fun country club trying to recruit members. Join Team Democrat and Vote However You Want Without Consequence! But it's no way to get things done.

Lieberman defends insurance industry interests   Oct. 28: Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-CT, is threatening to filibuster a health reform bill that includes that public option, even though he's been against this tactic in the past. Could this be because of his ties to the big insurance companies? Rachel Maddow is joined by's Glenn Greenwald.

Yglesias: Dodd is Against “The idea that people are going to be reprimanded” for Breaking Party Discipline
Systems of party discipline differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, from party to party, and even from legislative body to legislative body. I seem to remember that at one point while I was in college the Massachusetts state assembly Democratic caucus had very ironclad discipline while the Senate caucus was laxer. Discipline in the United States is generally much laxer than discipline in Canada. At the federal level, discipline is tighter in the House than in the Senate, and the GOP versions of both houses are tighter than the Democratic versions. These things, in part, reflect differences in the constitutional/legal order. But in part they also reflect choices and path dependency. The extremely lax discipline among Senate Democrats is generally quite favorable to the interests of individual incumbent Democratic Senators even if it makes it difficult to advance a legislative agenda. So when it comes to getting recalcitrant Senators to fall into line, what’s needed are not only the potential tools of discipline, but the will to use them.
And then there’s Chris Dodd:
But Lieberman’s fellow Connecticut senator, Democrat Chris Dodd, who faces a tough reelection fight in 2010, dismissed the idea that Lieberman would incur any retribution.
“No, no, no. People are going to be all over the place,” he said when asked if Lieberman should be punished. “The idea that people are going to be reprimanded because somehow they have a different point of view than someone else is ridiculous. That isn’t going to happen.”
Of course there’s nothing “ridiculous” about it. It’s quite standard in legislative bodies for members who defy the party position to face various kinds of reprimands. A political party, after all, isn’t supposed to be a mutual aid society for incumbent legislators. At their best, parties are vehicles for advancing a somewhat coherent vision of national policy. It is true, however, that it would be an unusual step for the Senate Democratic caucus to engage in discipline-enforcing behavior. That, however, is because Senate Democrats are outliers in their behavior, not because the idea of enforcing discipline is somehow nutty.
Now it should be said that in the particular case of Dodd it’s probably not in his interests to pick a fight with a home state colleague in the midst of a re-election campaign. Consequently, he probably shouldn’t be the go-to guy to ask about this issue.
Democrats and other supporters of health care reform have a very simple message for center-right Dems who oppose fixing the system: just let the Senate vote.
The issue, of course, is cloture. Reform proponents don't need 60 senators to pass a bill; they need 60 senators to simply let a vote happen. The message to Nelson, Lieberman, Lincoln, Landrieu, et al, is, "Agree to let the Senate vote on the bill, and then feel free to vote against it."
Obviously, Republicans are going to fight like hell to blur the difference between the procedural vote and the actual vote. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) of Kentucky said the procedural vote "will be treated as a vote on the merits of the bill." Why? Because he says so.
And Sen. Evan Bayh (D) of Indiana, one of the Senate's more needlessly conservative Dems, apparently wants to help advance McConnell's GOP message.
Bayh, who is undecided on the opt-out, is now asserting that he sees no difference between a vote to bring that measure to the floor (which requires 60) and a straight up or down vote on it -- a claim that's in perfect harmony with the GOP's songsheet. [...]
This one will really help maintain unity in the Dem caucus. It's one thing, after all, to threaten to block efforts by the majority party -- your own party -- to stage a straight up-or-down majority vote on the bill's substance. It's quite another to claim that the initial procedural vote, which requires 60, is not materially different from a straight up-or-down majority vote on the bill's substance.
Bayh specifically said he doesn't see "much difference between process and policy at this particular juncture." Republicans liked the quote so much they're spreading it around.
Got that? Evan Bayh is undermining this once-in-a-generation chance at health care reform and helping advance the Republican message at the same time.
I should note that this isn't entirely new -- in July, Bayh was saying the same thing. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) told his colleagues at the time, "Don't let the Republicans filibuster us into failure." Members of the caucus "may vote against final passage on a bill," Durbin said, but like-minded colleagues should at least reject the idea of "allowing the filibuster to stop the whole Senate." Almost immediately, Bayh said he disagreed, and that the procedural vote and the policy were practically the same thing.
Remember, this is total nonsense. Senators voting to end debate on a bill, only to ultimately vote against the same bill, happens all the time. Joe Lieberman has done it repeatedly.
Of course there's a difference between procedural and policy votes. Bayh is helping Republicans for no reason.
It couldn't be simpler -- if legislation Bayh doesn't like comes to the floor, he can vote against it. Before that, he can offer amendments, give speeches, and encourage others to agree with him. Just let the Senate vote.
Begala: Traitor Joe - The ex-Democrat now says he’ll join the GOP in a health-care filibuster. Paul Begala on Lieberman’s latest and most shameless betrayal.
It's journalistic shorthand to note a politician's party identification and state after his or her name. For example: Jane Doe (D-NY). And so Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman is identified as (I-CT). But the “I” does not stand for "Independent." It stands for "Insurance Industry."
Lieberman says he will join a Republican filibuster against President Obama's health-insurance reforms. You could see this coming from a mile away—actually from 15 years away.
In 1993 and 94, Lieberman consistently opposed President Clinton's reform bill—which did not have a public option. In case you're keeping score at home, Lieberman will filibuster the Obama plan, which has a public option, and he opposed the Clinton reform plan, which did not. Anything that protects consumers, it seems, is a bridge too far for Sen. Lieberman.

Lieberman sided with insurance companies against sick people, and with insurance companies against citizens who want to sue to protect their rights in court. As The New York Times reported, "Many of Mr. Lieberman's friends said he had no alternative but to take this position because it was the one favored by the insurance industry. The industry is important to Connecticut's economy and has generously donated to Mr. Lieberman's campaigns over the years." But in fairness to Sen. Lieberman, that's just what his friends said back in 2000, not what he says today. What he says today is that President Obama is "trying to do too much at once."
Too much at once? Too much at once? Why didn't that occur to Sen. Lieberman when we were fighting a war in Afhganistan, and he was cheerleading for an invasion of Iraq? Too much at once? How about 4,351 dead American heroes who gave their lives in a war that Joe Lieberman didn't think was doing too much?
Or how about FEMA? Lieberman insisted in letting the Department of Homeland Security swallow it up. Hillary Clinton warned him, basically saying FEMA was going to be doing too much in the event of a natural disaster and shouldn't be burdened by extra bureaucracy. But Sen. Lieberman didn't think FEMA was doing too much. You might say he thought Brownie was doing a heckuva job—because Sen. Lieberman blindly rubber-stamped Michael Brown when President George W. Bush plucked him from the Arabian Horse Association to run FEMA. Maybe Lieberman was doing too much to ask why President Bush was putting an unqualified boob in a life-and-death job.
 Even before then, when George H.W. Bush was trying to pass a capital gains tax cut for the idle rich, Sen. Lieberman didn't think he was doing too much. No, Sen. Lieberman joined with Republicans and voted in favor of special breaks for the Paris Hilton class. He led the fight against Securities & Exchange Commission Chairman Arthur Levitt's accounting reforms, which were designed to rein in corporate abuses. Apparently Clinton and Levitt were just doing too much.
Sen. Lieberman is always there when we don't need him. Don't ask him to do more than that. It's just too much.
When it comes to reform opponents pushing back against polls showing support for a public option, they have some credible options to choose from.
Conservatives could, for example, argue that there's still some confusion about the policy details, so the poll results should be taken with a grain of salt. That's not unreasonable. They could also argue that the public has simply embraced a bad idea, and that what it popular is not always right. That, too, is a plausible approach.
Simply pretending that the polls don't exist, however, is far more annoying.
Yesterday, for example, Glenn Beck said only "35% of the population" supports the idea of public-private competition. Noting that Harry Reid has said "the public wants this," Beck called the Majority Leader's remarks "a lie."
A Wall Street Journal editorial the other day was especially striking. It argued, "[T]he reality is that no one wants a public option except the political left." The editorial board said the media is cooking the books "by asking rigged questions."
Conservatives may find reality inconvenient, but that doesn't mean it should be ignored.
Let's have a look at these "rigged questions." Here is the wording of the Washington Post/ABC News poll, which tracked support for the public option from August through October at majorities of 52, 55, and 57 percent:
"Would you support or oppose having the government create a new health insurance plan to compete with private health insurance plans?"
Here is the wording of a September Kaiser Family Foundation poll, which tracked support for the public option from July through September at majorities of 59 percent, 59 percent, and 57 percent:
"Do you favor ... [c]reating a government-administered public health insurance option similar to Medicare to compete with private health insurance plans?"
Here is the wording of a September New York Times poll, which tracked support for the public option from July through September at majorities of 66 percent, 60 percent, and 65 percent:
"Would you favor or oppose the government offering everyone a government administered health insurance plan -- something like the Medicare coverage that people 65 and older get -- that would compete with private health insurance plans?"
Here is the wording of a newly released CNN poll, which tracked support for the public option in August and October at majorities of 55 percent and 61 percent:
"Would you favor or oppose creating a public health insurance option administered by the federal government that would compete with plans offered by private health insurance companies?"
The public has consistently said it would like to see eligible consumers have a choice between competing public and private plans. Conservatives disagree? Fine. But let's not pretend the polling data simply doesn't exist.

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