by desmoinesdem, Fri Oct 30, 2009 at 11:27:41 AM EDT
Senate HELP Committee Chairman Tom Harkin told reporters yesterday that he does not expect Senator Joe Lieberman to join a Republican filibuster to block the health care reform bill:
"As I said before, when it comes down to getting the 60 votes necessary to pass this bill, I do not believe that Joe Lieberman would want to be the one person who caucuses with the Democrats ... to bring this bill down. I don't think he wants to go down in history like that," Harkin said.
"He still wants to be a part of the Democratic Party although he is a registered independent. He wants to caucus with us and, of course, he enjoys his chairmanship of the [Homeland Security] committee because of the indulgence of the Democratic Caucus. So, I'm sure all of those things will cross his mind before the final vote."
In July, Harkin suggested a new rule for the Senate Democratic caucus:
"Every two years the caucus could have a secret ballot on whether a chairman should continue, yes or no [...] If the 'no's win, [the chairman's] out.
"I've heard it talked about before," he added.
At the time, Harkin's comments were widely viewed as a threat against Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus. But Lieberman is a more likely target for demotion if he follows through with his threats. His alleged fears about health care reform adding to the deficit don't hold water, and his plans to campaign for some Republicans in 2010 won't help his cause with fellow Democrats.
Incidentally, The Hill noted this week,
Connecticut has the highest U.S. concentration of insurance jobs, with the industry accounting for about 64,000 jobs as of June 2009, according to the state's labor department. That's down 23 percent from the 83,000 jobs in 1990, although the state projects a slow growth of 4 percent through 2014. The state is home to 72 insurance headquarters, with three times the U.S. average of insurance jobs as a percent of total state employment.
Lieberman of course denies that he is running interference for the insurance industry based in his state. Des Moines, Iowa is also a major center for insurance companies, but that hasn't stopped Harkin from supporting a public health insurance option to compete with the private sector.
Speaking of party discipline, some House Democrats are threatening to use procedural maneuvers to block consideration of the health care reform bill unless leaders allow a vote on key amendments. Over at Congress Matters, David Waldman reminds us that it was Rahm Emanuel who set the precedent of releasing House Democrats to vote against leadership on procedure.