White House to Harry Reid: Get Joe to Say It Is So


This morning, after noting Sen. Joe Lieberman's reluctance to go along with Democrats on last week's health care reform deal, I wrote that "liberals are desperate to pass a bill, any bill, and might be willing, in the end, to let Lieberman have his way in order to get something they can call health care reform passed." As if on cue, Politico published a report that the White House was pressuring Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to bargain with Lieberman.

In a response emailed to Greg Sargent, however, the White House is denying that it's urging Reid to cut a deal:

"The report is inaccurate. The White House is not pushing Senator Reid in any direction. We are working hand in hand with the Senate Leadership to work through the various issues and pass health reform as soon as possible."

One never knows for sure, but this strikes me as pretty transparent nonsense. Indeed, it looks to me like the truth is buried right at the end of the White House's statement: "We are working… [to] pass health reform as soon as possible." Of course they are! And given the limited options the administration has available, the fastest way to pass a reform bill would be… to bring Lieberman on board. Now, liberals really don't like Lieberman — according to Politico's report, Reid is particularly frustrated, to the point of refusing to deal with him for now — but without Lieberman, the options for reformers become rather unpleasant. 

Of course, that assumes that Lieberman can even be convinced to vote for the bill at all — an assumption very much in question. And it ignores the objections of Sen. Ben Nelson, who also has problems with the public option and the Medicare buy-in, but has made the bill's abortion language his major sticking point. It's still possible (if somewhat unlikely) that Olympia Snowe could be brought on board to replace one of those votes. But if Democrats lose both Lieberman and Nelson, any hope of finding 60 votes will have pretty much disappeared.

Update: TPM's Brian Beutler confirms:

Obama administration officials were not pleased when word leaked out earlier today that the White House was leaning on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to cut a deal with Joe Lieberman on a public option alternative--and they gave their counterparts on the other end of Pennsylvania Ave. an earful about it. But in the end, sources are unanimous: The White House wants Reid to hand Joe Lieberman the farm.

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  1. Is there a 'Morning-After Pill' for ObamaCare?
    Harry Reid is using the health-care bill to restore funding for abstinence-only sex education

    Harry Reid is really getting desperate to pass his health-care legislation. In a gambit that has confounded both liberal and conservative groups, the majority leader is using the health-care bill to restore funding for abstinence-only sex education programs that liberals (such as Mr. Reid himself) have spent the past three years trying to zero out.


    1. Heck, if Republicans play their cards right, maybe they can get privatized Social Security and more
      (or restored) Welfare Reform as riders in this bill.

  2. If Lieberman won't play ball, Reid could always work with Ben Nelson to get Nelson's vote.

    After all, if the priority is to pass a bill, why not appease the concerns of a fellow-Democrat (Nelson) rather than an apostate from the party (Lieberman)?

    1. Absent Snowe's vote, Reid needs both Nelson and Lieberman.

      That is, if Reid actually wants this passed. If I'm not mistaken, he gets more unpopular at home if this legislation comes to be, and his seat is up for grabs 2010.

    2. My question was somewhat rhetorical. I suspect that Reid would rather dicker with Liberman over the public option than pay Nelson's price - which is to include Stupak/Hyde prolife language in the bill.

      If you think the public-option crowd would get cranks if they couldn't get their way, imagine if they took abortion out of the bill! Reid might lose votes from pro-abortion Senators.

      1. get cranky, not get cranks

      2. I suspect that Reid would rather dicker with Liberman over the public option than pay Nelson's price - which is to include Stupak/Hyde prolife language in the bill.

        Privately, Nelson and probably other Democratic Senators like Blanche Lincoln don't want the bill to succeed, but they really want the party regulars to blame Lieberman and still support their re-election, while not having to defend the bill to their constituencies.

  3. Come on, Spirit of Christmas. Bring me the gift of a defeated Harry Reid.

    1. This is fantastic....spread this around

  4. Thank God for Lieberman. He's going to singlehandedly save the health care system and Obama's presidency, and probably the democratic majority. Whats amazing is they dont realize that. Except for Obama, he does realize it - he's on Lieberman's side.

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