Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Lieberman and other plagues on American Democracy

Joe Lieberman has burned more bridges with his old party than any politician probably since Theodore Roosevelt.
His latest doublecross on the health care reform bill has made Democrats furious. About 82 percent in a recent poll want him to be stripped of his chairmanship of the Homeland Security Committee. Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut would like to see him recalled (although the Constitution doesn't allow for any such thing.)
On an emotional level, I agree. I was ready to toss Lieberman overboard the minute he endorsed and campaigned for McCain/Palin in the '08 election.
But the one thing to remember about Lieberman after everything is said and done is that he is going to end up voting FOR healthcare reform and that is more than can be said for any single Republican. Even with the public option dead and the Medicare buy-in compromise stripped from the bill, it still doesn't have a single Republican willing to vote for it or even to allow it to go to a vote. So, as bad and as infuriating as Lieberman is right now, he is still better than any of the so-called "moderates" in the Wingnut Party. Every single one of them - Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins, George Voinovich - they are all not only going to vote against the bill, they are supporting a filibuster to prevent it from even coming up for a vote.

There are three major reasons why Healthcare reform has taken so long and is struggling so hard despite overwhelming support in the House and Senate. The first reason is pure political spite from the Republican Party which is only interested in defeating anything and everything that Obama tries to do so as to make him look bad and weaken him before the 2012 elections. The second thing is the filibuster which has evolved and metastasized into a gross, enormous tumor on the body of our American Democracy.
The Republican Party's abuse of the filibuster rule is destroying our democracy as we have known it. The fact that legislation supported by overwhelming majorities in the House and Senate can't even come up for a vote is outrageous. The filibuster rule needs to be cut back to what it once was in the 1970s and '60s and before - a rarely used procedure requiring some amount of effort or sacrifice on the part of those opposing the majority. Instead, today a filibuster requires no effort on the part of the minority party and instead puts all the onus on the majority to come up with 60 votes every time it is invoked - which today is on almost every single piece of legislation.
And finally, you can blame the lobbyists who have poured millions and millions of dollars into campaigns to influence the votes of senators like Joe Lieberman who hails from a state with lots of insurance companies.

The funny thing with Lieberman is that while he has incurred the wrath of his fellow Democrats once again on health care reform, to the delight of rightwingers, he is about to become a key player on the other side by pushing cap-n-trade legislation with John Kerry to address the global warming crisis. I suppose you can chalk that up to the fact that Connecticut has no oil interests to speak of, but does have many days a year where you want to put on a gas mask before going outside because of the smog rolling in from New York. However, at this point I don't know how much I would trust Lieberman to not backpedal and sabotage his own bill.

Nevertheless, the good news is that health care reform looks like it is finally going to pass and even without the watered down public option or the Medicare buy-in compromise, it is still the best and farthest reaching legislation on health care in decades. "As Kevin Drum said:

This is still a huge achievement that will benefits tens of millions of people in very concrete ways and will do it without expanding our long-term deficit. Either with or without a public option, this is more than Bill Clinton ever did, more than Teddy Kennedy did, more than LBJ did, more than Truman did, and more than FDR did. There won't be many other times in our lives any of us will be able to say that. So pass the bill.

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