The New York Times’ Adam Nagourney is reporting that Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) felt that Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) had “double crossed him” after he publicly rejected the Medicare buy-in compromise on CBS’s Face the Nation. “Reid had spoken with Lieberman two days earlier, and one of Lieberman’s top aides participated in the Saturday-afternoon conference call that Reid orchestrates for Democratic senators who will be appearing on the Sunday talk shows. ‘He double-crossed me,’ Reid said stiffly, associates later recounted. ‘Let’s not do what he wants. Let the bill just go down.'”
Lieberman disputes Reid’s characterization and has taken the “extraordinary step of providing a copy of a private letter written from Lieberman to Reid on Dec. 10, three days before the CBS appearance.” In his letter, Lieberman “voices objections to the deal, but stops short of explicitly saying he would vote against it”:
“Regarding the ‘Medicare buy-in’ proposal, the more I learn about it, the less I like it…There are also concerns about what impact this Medicare buy-in idea would have on Medicare solvency and Medicare premiums,” he added. “I have a feeling I will not be the only member of our Caucus who will not want to see this Medicare buy-in proposal adopted.”
Lieberman pretended to consider the proposal publicly, but it’s unlikely that he ever did. “I’ll take a look at [the Medicare by-in],” he told reporters on December 8th, shortly after Reid had announced that Democrats had reached an agreement to scrap the opt-out public option and replace it with a national exchange of nonprofits and a Medicare buy-in for Americans between 55 and 64 years of age. “I don’t know how anybody can decide [on the Medicare buy-in] until you see the actual language of these compromise proposals,” Lieberman told Fox News.
But during his December 13th appearance on Face the Nation — in which he insisted that “you got to take out the Medicare buy-in” — Lieberman admitted that he wasn’t familiar with the proposal. “I don’t know exactly what’s in it, from what I hear I certainly would have a hard time voting for it because it has some of the same infirmities that the public option did,” he said.
Regardless of what Reid thought Lieberman had agreed to, however, Lieberman rejected the proposal before the Congressional Budget Office analyzed it or lawmakers finalized it. As a result, he was arguing against a straw man, apparently unaware that Democrats had already agreed to protect traditional Medicare premiums by placing the new population into a separate risk pool, for instance. Lieberman didn’t attend the original negotiations or seriously consider the proposal he once enthusiastically embraced. Instead, he spewed his cost-shift/Medicare bankruptcy nonsense to avoid real discussions. He wasn’t interested in compromise.
Today, Reid issued a statement today, softening his criticism. “Senator Lieberman and I have a very open and honest working relationship. On issues ranging from foreign policy to health care, even when we disagree, he has always been straight forward [sic] with me,” Reid said.