Lieberman: Public Option Is "Wrong"

Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., on "Face the Nation," November 1, 2009. CBS

Senator Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., said Sunday that anyone supporting a government-backed health insurance plan is not only "wrong," but is jeopardizing the passage of any reform of health care.

"I'm all for health care reform," he said on CBS' "Face the Nation." "We have a system that needs fixing. But we've got some more urgent problems than that, and the first most urgent is to fix our economy, to get at creating jobs again."

Lieberman told moderator Bob Schieffer that the public option "came out of nowhere," and said it was not necessary to achieve what he described as the two goals of health reform: "Make health insurance more affordable, and to extend it to people who don't have it now.

"The public option I think was raised in the last year by people who really want to have a government-controlled health insurance system. That's their right. I think they're wrong.

"But it's not necessary - as President Obama has said over and over again - to achieve the goals that he has. So I hope it's not in there at the end" he told Schieffer.

The senator said that he would filibuster any legislation including a public option.

"Yes. Yes, I'm not going to filibuster to stop the debate on health care reform from beginning because I want to have that debate. I want to have health care reform. I want to be able to say, yes, there are so many good things we can do to make health insurance more affordable and to extend it to people who don't have it now," he told Schieffer.

"There're so many good things we can do to make health insurance more affordable and to extend it to people who don't have it now, but I feel so strongly about the creation of another government health insurance entitlement, of the government going into the health insurance business, I think it's such a mistake that I would use the power I have as a single Senator to stop a final vote."

"But wouldn't that mean that you might wind up with nothing instead of something?" asked Schieffer.

"Yeah, but I'd say to the people who are all of a sudden making the public option a government health insurance company the litmus test here, they're stopping us from getting something done."

On the supposed corruption within the Karzai administration in Afghanistan, Lieberman said, "We really got to keep our eye on the ball here. And David Axelrod said it well in the previous interview: We're in Afghanistan to stop the Taliban and al Qaeda from coming back into control there because if they do, it will be a base from which they can attack us again as they did on 9/11."

Finally, on President Obama's surprise visit to Dover Air Force Base to see the remains of American troops received, which was lambasted by Rush Limbaugh as a "photo op," Lieberman said, "I think he was there as commander in chief for all Americans. And I don't fault him or question his motives at all.

"I was proud that my president was there," he said.
  • David Morgan

    David Morgan is a senior editor at CBSNews.com and cbssundaymorning.com.

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