To no one's surprise (but certainly to my disappointment), Joe Lieberman has now told Harry Reid that he will filibuster any health care bill with a Medicare buy-in or a public option (emphasis mine):
Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) informed Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) in a face-to-face meeting on Sunday that he will vote against a health care bill that includes a public option or a provision that would expand Medicare, a Democrat Senate aide tells the Huffington Post.
The two Senators had a discussion in Reid's office shortly after Lieberman appeared on CBS's Face the Nation Sunday morning. The Connecticut Independent discussed with Reid some of his concerns about the legislation, elaborating on issues he had raised during the show. According to the source, who was briefed on the exchange, Lieberman punctuated the discussion by telling the majority leader directly that he would vote against the bill if the Medicare buy-in and public option provisions remained in it. Roll Call reports that Lieberman said he would also support a Republican filibuster of legislation that included these provisions.
This is a reversal of Lieberman's position when the deal was struck:
A Senate Democratic aide, flummoxed by Mr. Lieberman's stance, said, "It was a total flip-flop and leaves us in a predicament as to what to do."
Lieberman flip-flipped because he can. No matter what Lieberman does, the majority of the Democratic Senate caucus won't do anything about it. Here is a quick review:
Nothing Lieberman is doing would be possible without the ongoing support of the majority of the Democratic caucus. If Democratic Senators wanted to punish Lieberman for his consistent transgressions against the party, they could. If Democrats wanted to use reconciliation, and just circumvent him altogether, they could do that to. But they are not going to do either.
As such, Lieberman is simply taking the power that is being handed to him by the rest of the caucus. Since he knows that Senate Democrats won't ever punish him, and won't ever circumvent him, he now has free reign to dictate whatever legislation he wants, get tons of face time with the White House and Senate leadership, regularly be the top story on news outlets around the country, receive millions in campaign contributions, and appease his Republican base (at this point, most of Lieberman's supporters are Republicans). It is a great deal for Lieberman, and it would not be possible without the ongoing consent of the majority of the Democratic Senate caucus.
Since we have already defeated Lieberman in a Democratic primary, there is nothing more severe we can do as progressive activists to directly threaten Lieberman. What we need to start doing is taking action against the Democrats who enable Lieberman and his ilk. If other Senate Democrats are not going to do anything about Lieberman taking control of the entire caucus, then really, what is the difference between those other Senators and Joe Lieberman?
Never thought I would echo George W. Bush, but we have reached the point where it is time to stop differentiating between problematic Senators like Joseph Lieberman and the other Senate Democrats who enable them.