To move the process forward, Reid had three options. The first, many would say, was reconciliation. But that would have required going back to the committees to refashion a reconciliation bill, and going back to the House of Representatives so it could craft a reconciliation bill, and then going back through the votes. There wasn’t time for that, and even if there was, throwing the process so far back onto itself would have been an enormous risk.
The next was to cut a deal with Olympia Snowe. But Snowe had made it clear that part of any compromise with her was a deceleration in the bill’s momentum. “The more they try to drive this process in an unrealistic timeframe, the more reluctant I become about whether or not this can be doable in this timeframe that we’re talking about,” Snowe told reporters. “There’s always January.”
That left Joe Lieberman. And Lieberman’s price for signing onto the bill was the destruction of the public option and, unexpectedly, the Medicare buy-in provision. There would be no triggers, no opt-outs, no compromises. Lieberman swung the axe and cut his deal cleanly, killing not only the public option, but anything that looked even remotely like it. Some on the Hill remain worried that Lieberman will discover new points of contention in the coming days, as they believe he had signaled that he wouldn’t filibuster the Medicare buy-in. They worry whether his word is good. But assuming it is, he can provide the 60th vote Reid needs to move the bill by the end of next week, and keep health-care reform on some sort of schedule.
We all knew that the final health care bill was not going to be what progressives wanted because, unfortunately, the United States Congress just isn’t that progressive.
And maybe, no matter what, certain parts of the bill never would have made it–perhaps if it weren’t one Senator demanding cuts it would have been another.
But there is no reason Joe Lieberman should have become such an obstacle to health care reform; there’s no reason to have had to make the broad, far-reaching cuts he demanded.
We had a chance to replace Lieberman with a better Democrat three years ago; Ned Lamont wouldn’t have demanded that progressive health care reforms be axed.
Now, clearly the Democratic Party shouldn’t start Scozzafavaing themselves–the goal should be to pick candidates who are as progressive as possible who can still win in their states.
We have the largest Congressional majority in decades, but it’s still not enough–even though we have 60 Democrats, we have far fewer Democratic votes.
The goal of Democrats and progressives alike shouldn’t be to elect more Democrats, but better Democrats–Democrats who will cast reliable votes for worthwhile, progressive legislation.
People like Joe Lieberman shouldn’t be defended, let alone re-elected. We certainly shouldn’t hand seats over to the Republicans, not by any means, but there are a good number of Congressional Democrats who could–and should–be replaced with more progressive alternatives.
Had that been the case three years ago, we’d likely have a better health care reform bill today.