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Time For Dems To Get Over Their Lieberman Blues

(CBS)
Watching the liberal-left boil with rage over Joe Lieberman's treachery, you have to wonder why these folks don't do themselves a big favor and stop clinging to their impossible dream. It's not that the inclusion of the proposed Medicare expansion in the proposed health care reform bill is such a crazy notion. Far from it, though honorable men and women can disagree honorably whether Congress is doing the right thing. What is crazy is the assumption that the "big tent" version of the Democratic Party is going to get something worth saving passed into law.

By now, it's clear that Lieberman is having the time of his political life dishing out payback after the left's support of Ned Lamont, his Democratic challenger in the 2006 Connecticut race for U.S. Senator. With his periodic Yoda-like warnings, Lieberman is driving his former colleagues up the wall - the latest instance being a threat to filibuster the bill over a provision for expanding Medicare to people between 55 and 64 (even though three months ago, Lieberman seemed to endorse the Medicare buy-in.)

This has led to all manner of public breast beating on the left. Jonathan Cohn of The New Republic, who has produced consistently excellent commentary on the health reform topic, laments that "Lieberman's opposition to the public option seems to reflect a determination to oppose--and, if at all possible, destroy--whatever elements of reform liberals hold most dear." For the Washington Post's Ezra Klein Lieberman is out to torture in order to "settle an old electoral score," adding that his obstruction is costing lives. As an example, Klein notes, "Lieberman was invited to participate in the process that led to the Medicare buy-in. His opposition would have killed it before liberals invested in the idea. Instead, he skipped the meetings and is forcing liberals to give up yet another compromise. Each time he does that, he increases the chances of the bill's failure that much more. And if there's a policy rationale here, it's not apparent to me, or to others who've interviewed him."

But nobody is more frustrated than Jane Hamsher, who is behind a move to oust Lieberman's wife from her role as a spokesperson for Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the breast cancer charity.) Separately, Hamsher published a scathing assessment of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for his "coddling" of Lieberman.

"If you let Lieberman lead you and the country around by the nose," Hamsher wrote, "it doesn't matter who asked you to do it. Slipping in "annual limits" on coverage, manipulating procedure only when there's something you really want, and then shrugging your shoulders and calling yourself a prisoner of the Senate parliamentarian when you want to facilitate some massively unpopular clause in the interest of the insurance industry — it's all going to come to rest on you. Personally. I promise."

OK, I get it. The left is super-pissed at Lieberman. Pissed also with the likes of Ben Nelson, Blanche Lincoln, Mary Landriu, - as well as most of the other of the Senate "moderates" who have been gumming up the legislative works. But this is starting to resemble a Frida Kahlo painting, where the Democrats keep opening up a vein for the sado-masochistic entertainment value of the experience. Here's where an intervention might help. If the Democrats can't pass a good health care reform bill even with a Senate majority, when will the leadership seriously consider alternatives - specifically, passing the president's agenda through At the very least, dispense with the fiction that either moderate Republicans or Blue Dog Democrats are going to come through in the clutch. They won't.

The Republicans used budget reconciliation in 2001 and 2003 to pass Bush era tax cuts, as well as the Tax Increase Prevention and Reconciliation Act and the Deficit Reduction Act (both in 2005.) The GOP was sufficiently tough-minded to make use of the available legislative rules when it had to. Do Democrats have enough guts to do the same?

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