Days after saying that he was “open to looking at” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-NV) Medicare buy-in compromise, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) criticized the proposal on CBS’ Face The Nation yesterday. “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,” said Lieberman. Later in the day, Lieberman “surprised” Reid “in a face-to-face meeting” with the news that he would join a filibuster against a health care reform bill that included the Medicare buy-in.
A Senate Democratic aide told the New York Times that Lieberman’s announcement “was a total flip-flop” because the compromise’s supporters “thought they had secured Mr. Lieberman’s agreement to go along.” But Lieberman’s filibuster position isn’t just a flip-flop on policy. Just last week, Lieberman told Fox News that he couldn’t make a decision on the bill until the details were released with a CBO score:
CAVUTO: Which way you going to go on this?
LIEBERMAN: Good to be here. Well, the direct answer is, that Joe doesn’t know, because Joe doesn’t know what — nor do most other members of the Democratic Caucus — know what’s in the compromise proposals that came out of the group of 10 senators that Senator Reid sent to the Congressional Budget Office. [...]
The announcement, really, is that I don’t know how anybody can decide until you see the actual language of these compromise proposals. And, on the Medicare buy-in, I have increasing concerns, as I think a lot of other colleagues in the Democratic Caucus, including some of those who were not concerned about the public option.
Later in the interview, Lieberman told Fox’s Neil Cavuto that health care negotiations were “kind of at a hold right now” until Reid “gets an estimate back from the Congressional Budget Office,” which is expected to be finished as early as today. Watch it:
Noting that the CBO is expected to say that the proposal will neither increase the deficit nor harm Medicare’s solvency, Ezra Klein surmises that Lieberman “decided to make his move in advance of the CBO score, the better to ensure the facts of the policy couldn’t impede his opposition to it.”
The Wonk Room’s Igor Volsky notes that “if Lieberman was truly interested in voting for health care reform he would offer substitute policies that could achieve the goals of the public option,” but that “it’s unlikely that Lieberman will offer Democrats a real compromise.” Volsky writes that Lieberman’s “initial uncertainty about the Medicare buy-in may be the result of his absence from the original negotiations.” Though Lieberman was invited to the talks, he chose not to attend and Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) sat in for him.
Yglesias calls Lieberman’s posturing on Medicare buy-in “the old double-cross” because “he doesn’t care about expressing” his position “in misleading ways, timed to cause embarrassment to the Democratic leadership.” Yglesias adds that because a “reconciliation” path to a health care bill is said to be off the table, Lieberman has “no incentive to compromise.”
,TPM’s Evan McMorris-Santoro has more on Lieberman’s past support for a Medicare expansion.