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.
"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.