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Thread: The Other Senate Maverick

  1. #1
    Dirty Kiwi Senior Contributor
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    The Other Senate Maverick

    The Other Senate Maverick

    When John McCain ran for president, he positioned himself as "the original maverick." The dissenting votes that so annoyed his fellow Republicans—on tax cuts, campaign-finance reform, offshore drilling—were hailed as evidence of these maverick credentials.

    But there may be another man in Washington who better deserves the maverick label. Sen. Joe Lieberman. Once the Democrats' nominee for vice president, today Mr. Lieberman is arguably the most hated man in that party because he is threatening to filibuster the health-care bill.

    On NBC's "Meet the Press" this Sunday, Mr. Lieberman was pretty categorical. "If the public option is still in there," he said, "the only resort we have is to say no at the end to voting the bill off the floor."

    Technically, Mr. Lieberman has not been a Democrat since he lost the 2006 Democratic primary in Connecticut and then ran and won as an independent. Nevertheless, he still caucuses with the Democrats. Indeed, Sen. Tom Harkin (D., Iowa) tartly notes that Mr. Lieberman enjoys his chairmanship of the Homeland Security Committee only because the Democrats let him.

    The decision to let Mr. Lieberman keep a juicy chairmanship was a calculation by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to keep Mr. Lieberman in the Democratic fold. It wasn't an unreasonable calculation. On most issues—from abortion and marriage to the stimulus and union-related legislation—Mr. Lieberman largely votes with the Democrats.

    Still, there are issues, and there are issues. However much Mr. McCain may have departed from Republican orthodoxy, it wasn't enough to deny him his party's presidential nomination. By contrast, Mr. Lieberman is proving himself a maverick on the kind of tribal issues that define today's Democratic Party.

    First, at a time when Democrats were pushing for withdrawal, Mr. Lieberman spoke up publicly in support of a more aggressive plan for victory in Iraq. He then backed Mr. McCain for president at the expense of the Democratic candidate, who also happened to be the first African American to win the nomination of a major party. Now he threatens to filibuster what for many Democrats is the Holy Grail: a vast new health-care entitlement.

    Conservatives and Republicans rattle off any number of objections to the bill: It would bust the budget; it would force many families to replace private coverage with government; it would subsidize abortion; it would ration care, etc. These are all variations on the major argument: It's not going to work.

    None of this really persuades Democrats, because they see it differently. For Democrats, getting a big health-care bill to Barack Obama's desk is akin to FDR's signing the Social Security Act.

    Never mind if it costs too much or has some bad consequences. Ask yourself this: Whether it's Social Security or public education, when have Democrats ever cared whether government programs are meeting their goals? The important thing is that massive health-care spending shows they care.

    So when Mr. Lieberman says he's going to filibuster, he's not just working against a piece of legislation. He's taking on an almost religious faith—and the opportunity to push through something Democrats believe will secure their place in history.

    In fairness to the Democrats, it's hardly unreasonable to be irritated with a man who endorses a Republican for president and opposes Democrats on its signature issues. Surely, however, these signature issues speak to what has happened to the Democratic Party. It wasn't so long ago that the centrist Democratic Leadership Council was thought to be the party's future.

    That's all vanished now, and with it the Democratic center. Though there are still Democrats who have centrist voting records, they have no movement. The animating philosophy today comes from Netroots Nation, MoveOn, and so on. Were it not for the war, Mr. Lieberman likely would never have lost the 2006 Democratic primary, or become the maverick on gut Democratic issues.

    In the end, that primary may have been the liberation of Joe Lieberman. Tom Scott, a former Republican state senator in Connecticut who now runs a Web site on state politics (TomScottReports.com), thinks Mr. Lieberman's position on health care puts him in a strong position at home. In 1988, Mr. Scott played an important role in helping Mr. Lieberman win his Senate seat when Mr. Scott endorsed him over the liberal Republican incumbent, Lowell Weicker.

    "If Joe plays a central role in defeating this health-care bill," says Mr. Scott, "he has a good chance of getting the Republican nomination [for Senate]—and still getting all those Democrats and independents who would vote for him no matter what party is by his name on the ballot."

    May be just another of this bill's many unintended consequences.
    In the realm of spirit, seek clarity; in the material world, seek utility.

    Leibniz

  2. #2
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    At the end of the day Joe rabn for re election claiming he was with the base on everything but Iraq. Since then he's shown that to be a lie. I voted for him. The republican was a crook and Lamont a doe eyed fool. He is in his last term. He no lponger relects his constituents. Obama had one of his widest margins of victory in CT. If not representing the priorities of his constituents on healthcare makes him a maverick He is one. I think representing the insurance companies over his constituants makes him another pol beholden to big dollar supporters rather than the people like me who actually voted for him

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