Lieberman Holds The Key In Health Care Reform


joe-liebermanThe future of health care reform could rest in one man’s hands, and it’s not President Obama. Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman has again emerged as the man in the middle, the key vote.

On Monday night, Democratic senators held a tense 90-minute closed door meeting in which they reluctantly agreed to Lieberman’s demands that a plan to let people buy into Medicare beginning at age 55 be scrapped.

It was a bitter pill for the senators to swallow but they seemingly had no choice since Lieberman could represent the necessary 60th vote that the Democrats would need to pass health care legislation. Some are calling foul because this was a plan Lieberman endorsed as recently as three months ago.

“What I was proposing was that they have an option to buy into Medicare early,” Lieberman told the Connecticut Post.

On Tuesday, the Senator released this statement.

“My comments . . . were made before we had a bill for consideration on the Senate floor that contains extensive health insurance reforms. Any inclusion of a Medicare buy-in . . . would be duplicative of what is already in the bill.”

The death of the buy-in plan now joins the public option as two victories for the Independent Lieberman.

“I’m getting toward the position where I can say what I’ve wanted to say all along: that I’m ready to vote for health care reform,” he said.

But his Democratic colleagues are questioning Lieberman’s motives.

“The fact of the matter is many of us have compromised a great deal. It’s not as if we’re being intransigent. The problem is that people like Joe Lieberman, Olympia Snowe, set up goal posts and then move them every time we seem to get close,” said Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.).

The insurance industry is a major employer in Connecticut and even though that industry has contributed more than a million dollars to Lieberman’s campaigns over the years, he insists that he has nothing to do with his stand on the health care reform bill.

Not everyone in Greenwich is buying that.

“I think that if you follow the money trail, he’s representing the insurance industry of America from Connecticut and I think no matter what they say, he’s going to be opposed to it,” said Mt. Kisco resident Mary Anne Wolk.

And yet other out on the Avenue on Tuesday believe the senator is doing his best.

“Well I’d like to think that he has the nation’s interests at heart,” said Greenwich resident Marianne Lucy.

Lieberman said he favors the essential elements of the health care bill but is fearful of compounding the national debt with large government-funded programs.

The Senator campaigned against Barack Obama last year and describes himself as “liberated from party loyalty.”

{WCBS-TV/Noam Newscenter}