Last week, Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY), the most conservative member of the so-called bipartisan “Gang of Six” working on the Senate Finance Committee’s health care bill, stated that he preferred that Congress deal with reform incrementally. “I think the only way it will happen is we need to break it down into smaller parts than we have now and put it through one at a time,” he said.
Today on CNN, Sen. Joe Lieberman (CT), an Independent who caucuses with the Democrats, embraced Enzi’s idea. “Great changes in our country often have come in steps. The Civil Rights movement occurred, changes occurred in steps,” he argued. Lieberman added that Congress should address the nearly 50 million uninsured at some point down the road:
LIEBERMAN: Morally, everyone of us would like to cover every American with health insurance but that’s where you spend most of the trillion dollars plus, or a little less that is estimated, the estimate said this health care plan will cost. And I’m afraid we’ve got to think about putting a lot of that off until the economy is out of recession. There’s no reason we have to do it all now.
Later, host John King asked Lieberman if he would vote with the Democrats if the reconciliation process is used to pass health care. “I think it’s a real mistake to try to jam through the total health insurance reform,” Lieberman said, adding, “It’s just not good for the system. Frankly, it won’t be good for the Obama presidency.” Watch it:
Noting that the insured currently pay for the uninsured through rising premiums, Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) challenged Lieberman’s approach. “We’ve got to bring down the cost of health care,” he argued. “It’s difficult to do that by ignoring those who don’t have health insurance today.” A New York Times editorial today agreed:
If nothing is done to slow current trends, the number of people in this country without insurance or with inadequate coverage will continue to spiral upward. That would be a personal tragedy for many and a moral disgrace for the nation. It is also by no means cost-free. Any nation as rich as ours ought to guarantee health coverage for all of its residents.
Yet, Lieberman still sides with the Republicans on health care reform. “Joe Lieberman is not some right-wing nutcase,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said last November defending Lieberman against anger over his support for John McCain’s candidacy for president. “Joe Lieberman is one of the most progressive people ever to come from the state of Connecticut.”