Joe Lieberman vs. a public option

Democrats lose a key ally in the fight against a Republican filibuster. Is a government-run insurance plan dead?

Independent Sen. Joe Lieberman—a former Democrat who still sides with his old party on many key issues—said he would back a Republican filibuster to block a health-care reform bill if it includes government-run insurance as an alternative to private coverage. Does this kill Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's newly unveiled proposal for a public option that would allow states to opt out? (Watch Fox News analysts talk about Lieberman's decision.)

Harry Reid's public option is dead: That didn't take long, says Philip Klein in The American Spectator. "Without Lieberman's support, Reid won't have the backing of 60 senators he needs to bring legislation to the floor for a vote." And this could cost Reid the support of moderate Democrats who don't like the public option but didn't want to anger party leaders by jumping ship—why would red state Democrats "risk a major backlash at home" over a lost cause?

"Momentum for Government Plan Stopped by Joe-Mentum"

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Lieberman will 'cave,' but he's still a problem: Joe Lieberman just wants people to see "how maverick-y he is," says Nate Silver in FiveThirtyEight. Lieberman will "cave" once he's gotten some attention, and once Harry Reid has made pronouncements about how great Lieberman is. But Reid can salvage things by changing the "opt out" to an "opt in," or adding a "trigger" for public insurance if private premiums are too high, which would get moderate Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe on board and get the train rolling again.

"Somebody buy Joe Lieberman a puppy"

If he can, Lieberman will kill reform: Sure, Lieberman will probably vote for reform, said Jonathan Chait in The New Republic, if the Democrats "scale back" enough to "win over Olympia Snowe," because he "won't join a futile filibuster." But Lieberman's nonsensical objections—he says a public option would increase the national debt; it won't—make it clear that he's still furious over past snubs by his old party, and, given the chance, he'd "stick in the knife and kill health-care reform."

"It was Lieberman all along"

Now Democrats can't ram through their bill: Harry Reid's "opt out" idea deserves to die, say the editors of The Wall Street Journal. It's just a ruse that would distort insurance markets, drive up the cost of private insurance, and create a new entitlement by forcing states to adopt the public option. "Bravo, Joe," for "standing up to the Washington rush to rearrange 18 percent of the U.S. economy without carefully inspecting the cost and the consequences."

"Lieberman steps up"

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