U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman has a bipartisan group of senators ready to help pass health care reform — minus a government-run insurance plan.
During a New Haven stop to support overall reform, Connecticut’s independent fourth-term senator gave his strongest statement to date opposing Democrats’ and President Obama’s call for a “public option” health care plan.
“Public option” is shorthand for a Medicare-like government plan that would compete with private companies to cover many of the 47 million Americans who don’t get private health insurance through their employers or elsewhere.
“If we create a public option, the public is going to end up paying for it,” Lieberman said following an hour-long confab with public-health experts at the Ashmun Street community center of the Monterey Homes public housing complex. “That’s a cost we can’t take on.”
President Obama publicly backs the public option, but his chief aide has signaled he may be willing to drop it as part of a compromise package.
That’s the kind of compromise Lieberman is looking to forge.
Lieberman hopes to help do that through the work of an informal, but busy, bipartisan group he formed last year with Republican U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander.
The group meets every Tuesday out of the view of the press or staff members. It includes 15-20 centrist Democrats and moderate Republicans. They invite speakers on pressing issues to shmooze with them.
Since June the group has focused exclusively on finding common ground to pass health reform, Lieberman said Tuesday. It will continue to do so through July. Its invited guest next week is Sen. Dodd, who is overseeing Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearings on the bill to fill in for the ailing chairman, Ted Kennedy. The following week’s guest is Finance Chairman Max Baucus.
That common ground, in Lieberman’s view, has no room for the public option.
Needless to say, The Usual Suspects are outraged over Lieberman’s defection on the public option.
I know a lot of us are leery when we hear of so-called “bipartisan coalitions” but if this one can come up with a way to get rid of the “public option” part of the healthcare “reform bill” monstrosity, I’m willing to listen to and consider what they have to say.