Independent Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman surprised Democrats yesterday by declaring he would vote against the Senate health care bill in its current form. In an interview on Face the Nation, Lieberman said that he would "have a hard time" voting for the bill if it includes a compromise, reached last week, to set up insurance plans run by nonprofit companies supervised by the government, and allow people without insurance to buy into Medicare at age 55. His remarks seemed to surprise some Democratic leaders who thought Lieberman had agreed to go along with the compromise.
Lieberman said the Medicare buy-in has "some of the same infirmities that the public option did. It will add taxpayer costs. It will add to the deficit. It’s unnecessary. The basic bill, which has a lot of good things in it, provides a generous new system of subsidies for people between ages 55 and 65, and choice and competition." Lieberman opined that without his support, the bill did not have the filibuster-proof 60 votes to pass. One Senate Democratic aide described Lieberman's statements as "a total flip-flop, and leaves us in a predicament as to what to do."
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky crowed, "The Democrats are in serious trouble on this, and the core problem is the American people do not want us to pass it." Democrats hope to pass a bill by Christmas, but at this point Lieberman isn't their only obstacle. Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska, a Democrat, was also on Face the Nation yesterday, and declared, "I can't support the bill with the abortion language that's there." Nelson is strongly opposed to any bill that would include insurance coverage for abortion, and on Saturday Senate majority leader Harry Reid met with advocates of abortion rights to explore ideas for a compromise. Watch the Face the Nation interview below.