Senator Joe Lieberman is an Independent. As romantically autonomous as that may sound, it also means he can count on support from neither the Democratic nor Republican Parties. It takes money to maintain a Senate seat. Why is this germane to health reform? Because a) money always is; and b) Mr. Lieberman by virtue of his Independent status presumably does not have enough– and has recently announced that he will not vote for cloture (to end a filibuster) on Harry Reid’s opt-out Public Option plan. Lieberman stated: “if the bill remains what it is now, I will not be able to support a cloture motion before final passage.”
And: “I can’t see a way in which I could vote for cloture on any bill that contained a creation of a government-operated-run insurance company.”
Hearing this, I naturally began looking at the Insurance Industry contributions to Mr. Lieberman’s coffers. I expected to find Ronald A. Williams’ picture on Lieberman’s desk. I was wrong. According to Open Secrets.org Lieberman ranked only 14th in contributions from Insurers and Health Insurers (links below). Not shabby, but not exactly prime for a Senator who represents the State of Connecticut– home to a thriving Insurance Industry.
Why then? Tim Noah over at Slate covers the question very well in an article well worth reading. Noah posits that because Lieberman can no longer count on Party Politics, he’s attempting to curry favor among the Insurers. Noah writes:
Why would Lieberman want to sink health reform? Klein points out that in the pretty recent past, Lieberman has supported the general goal, if not the specifics, of Obamacare. But consider Lieberman’s political situation. He is no longer a Democrat. That means he no longer has a political base. In the future, he will have to rely more on constituencies and on cash. The White House suggests that Lieberman wouldn’t dare alienate voters by opposing health reform. But what’s the most cash-rich constituency in the Nutmeg State? The insurance industry, which is headquartered in Connecticut and employs 64,000 people.
At the moment, insurers probably aren’t too pleased with Connecticut’s other senator, Democrat Chris Dodd, because Dodd is a prominent advocate for the public option. As I’ve noted previously, Dodd, during the past 20 years, received $2.3 million in contributions from insurers-more than any member of the House or Senate except John McCain, R-Ariz. During that same period, Dodd collected $774,000 from health insurers, ranking second only to House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio. Lieberman, even though he’s from Connecticut, has during that same period had to settle for 14th place in both insurance-industry contributions and health-insurance-industry contributions. Blocking the public option might allow Lieberman to displace Dodd as “the senator from Aetna.”
Noah proffers a number of other supports for his hypothesis, and makes a great deal of sense. And in the twisted world of American Political Reality, unfortunately, Lieberman’s play is an understandable one– given the desire to hang on to his Seat. So it seems we’ve come to this: “Independence” means “in search of the highest bidder.” I don’t live in Connecticut, and there’s no accounting for electorate taste. But how ’bout this: if we all took a single dollar, wrote “Public Option” on the bill itself and sent it to Joe– maybe he could vote his conscience and heed that moral imperative I heard so much about when he was running for Vice-President. In his rebuke of Bill Clinton
He likened Clinton’s failure as a moral authority for children to the role of the entertainment industry in undermining ”the stability and integrity of the family,” observing that children are quick to perceive a ”double standard.” The word moral appears half a dozen times in the address.
I would suggest that few things can so quickly undermine the stability and integrity of the family as a lack of health care; and children are not the only ones who can perceive a double standard.
Senator Joe Lieberman
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Hartford, CT 06103
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