Why Did Joe Lieberman Kill the Public Option?

Joe Lieberman claims to be a liberal, yet blocks Democratic healthcare reform.  Why did Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) threaten to filibuster and insist on dropping the public option and a Medicare buy-in for people aged 55 – 64 in the healthcare reform bill?  Even more puzzling is the fact that Lieberman had supported a public option as recently as this past September.  Lieberman, who may classify as a liberal, is pro-choice and supports some gay rights, angered Democrats in his home state of Connecticut when he openly campaigned for Republicans John McCain and Sarah Palin in the 2008 presidential election.

In The Guardian, Chris McGreal writes that “Now, in the view of some, he is plumbing new depths of betrayal by using his deciding vote as an independent member of the Senate to hold hostage Barack Obama’s reform of America’s dysfunctional healthcare system.   Lieberman’s tactics have upset Democratic party members of Congress who are asking why a popular president’s agenda is being stalled by a senator who has repeatedly turned his back on his old party.”

Critics see Lieberman’s opposition to the public option as a result of his acceptance of approximately $1 million in campaign donations from the medical insurance industry – many of which are headquartered in his home state — over his 21-year Senate career.  Lieberman’s wife, Hadassah, works for a lobbying firm as its health and pharmaceutical specialist.  Her previous employers include big pharma companies Pfizer and Hoffmann-LaRoche.  Lieberman’s supporters thought he was “genuinely an independent” who agrees “more often than not with Democrats on domestic policy.  I agree more often than not with Republicans on foreign and defense policy,” Lieberman once told Fox News.

According to McGreal, “Detractors paint a picture of a vain, bitter man still stung by his rejection by Democratic voters who came close to scuppering his Senate career three years ago and now reveling in the power he wields to block Obama’s first piece of major legislation.”  Lieberman says he is not acting out of spite.  “That’s just poppycock,” he said.  “If I had any sense of vendetta against the Democratic party, I wouldn’t be in the Democratic caucus today.”

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