Lieberman on Public Option Health Care: 'I Have No Other Choice ... I've Got To Stop It'
November 10, 2009 - 4:26 PMSenator Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) said he has "no other choice" but to filibuster a health care bill that contains a government-run health insurance option, adding that he would use his right as a senator to try "to stop it."
“I have no other choice,” Lieberman told several reporters on Capitol Hill on Tuesday. “I’ve got to use the right I have as a senator to stop something that I think is going to be terrible for our future, which is the public option, not health care reform. I want to vote for health care reform.”
“People, I think, who really want a single-payer system and government control of health insurance are using the public option as a nose under the tent, a camel’s nose under the tent,” he said, adding that, “they’ve got a right to that point of view – I think they’re wrong and I think it would be terrible for the country and for health care, so I’ve got to stop it.”
The health care bill that passed (220-215) in the House of Representatives on Saturday, the Affordable Health Care for America Act, includes a “public option.” This means that the federal government would establish a health insurance agency administered by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and available through a federal Health Insurance Exchange.
States can run their own exchanges under the House plan with federal permission and if their exchange mirrors the federal one.
While neither of the health care bills from the Finance Committee or the Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee contained a government-run public option, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said on Oct. 26 that he would incorporate one.
“I think it’s the fairest way to go,” Reid said on Oct. 26. “A public option can achieve the goal of bringing a meaningful reform to our broken system.
The next day, Lieberman announced that if the Senate health care bill includes a government-run public option, he would side with the Republicans to filibuster the bill. “If the bill remains what it is now, I will not be able to support a cloture motion before final passage,” said Lieberman on Oct. 27, as reported by CBS News.
Senate Republicans could effectively kill any health care bill by filibuster unless the Democrats get 60 votes for cloture, to cut off debate.
There are 58 Democrats in the Senate and 40 Republicans – the two Independents are Bernard Sanders of Vermont and Joe Lieberman of Connecticut. Without Lieberman’s support, the Democrats could not get cloture to end debate and bring the bill to the Senate floor for a vote.
A transcript of the exchange among Sen. Lieberman (I-Conn.), another reporter, and CNSNews.com follows below:
CNSNews.com: “Is there a circumstance, Senator Lieberman, where you’d vote for cloture on a health care bill that did contain a public option?”
Senator Lieberman: “I can’t see one now, no. And it hurts me to say that because I really want to vote for health insurance reform. I just think [if] you go back to last year and look and see during the debates if anybody in the presidential campaigns if anybody ever mentioned the words ‘public option’ or anything like it. They didn’t, this is an unnecessary add-on.”
CNSNews.com: “In light of these budget issues, senator, would you support a bill that cost $1 trillion or more even if it didn’t have a public option in it?”
Senator Lieberman: “Only if it was paid for, of course, and it would depend on how it was paid for. In other words, what impact do either increases in taxes or premiums [have]? Like I said, as I’ve been saying, you can’t give a lot of people insurance who don’t have it now and expect – that costs money, and we’ve got to find the money in a reasonable way.”
Reporter: “What do you say to people criticizing you for not even being willing to vote to put the bill on the floor?
Senator Lieberman: “I do want to put it on the floor.”
Reporter: “But for final – you voted no?”
Senator Lieberman: “I have no other choice. In other words, I’ve got to use the right I have as a senator to stop something that I think is going to be terrible for our future, which is the public option, not health care reform. I want to vote for health care reform.
“People, I think, who really want a single-payer system and government control of health insurance are using the public option as a nose under the tent, a camel’s nose under the tent, and that’s – they’ve got a right to that point of view – I think they’re wrong, and I feel it would be terrible for the country and for health care, so I’ve got to stop it.”