In Supporting Filibuster, Lieberman Plays For Power

How many Democrats instantly flashed back to President Obama's expansive attitude toward Sen. Joseph Lieberman after the 2008 elections, where Lieberman threatened to leave the party after Harry Reid tried to strip him of his Homeland Security Committee chairmanship? Publicly, the White House said that reconciliation was the order of the day. Privately, they sent word that Lieberman would be a reliable vote on the big issues of the day, like, um, health care. As Lieberman pal Chris Dodd put it at the time, Lieberman "is willing to be a member of your family," so why not let him in?

Now, Sen. Lieberman says he'll join a GOP filibuster of any health care bill that contains a public option in any form. (Sen. Evan Bayh might have just gotten the cover needed to either join Lieberman or split from him.)

I've told Sen. Reid, that I'm strongly inclined, I haven't totally decided but I'm strongly inclined to vote to proceed to the health care debate even though I don't support the bill he's bringing together, because it's important that we start the debate on health care reform because I want to vote for health care reform this year. But I also told him that if the bill remains what it is now I will not be able to support a cloture motion before final passage.

Now -- the final bill, post-conference, is going to look a bit different from the reconciled Senate bill. Lieberman is giving himself the power to influence the final bill. I doubt that the Senate leadership is going to press him too hard right now, preferring to see if he can be accommodated in the final debate.