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Lieberman Skips Health Talks

Lieberman — who was the party’s nominee for vice president in 2000 — has been a thorn in the side of Senate Democrats since he began supporting former President George W. Bush’s push for war in Iraq, and he has charted a defiant path since losing the Connecticut Democratic primary in 2006 to an anti-war liberal. He won re-election as an Independent, but again incited the ire of his party by actively campaigning for the 2008 GOP presidential nominee, Sen. John McCain (Ariz.). Lieberman almost lost his Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs gavel as a result.

With Lieberman and other Democratic votes on health care reform uncertain, Democratic aides acknowledged that Reid has been putting a lot of energy into trying to craft a deal that can appeal to Snowe and possibly Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine).

One senior Democratic source said Snowe’s vote might actually be easier to snag than Lieberman’s.

“Snowe’s all about the policy, but she’s aware of the politics,” said the source. “Lieberman is all about the politics, but he doesn’t seem to be consistent on policies considering where he was in the past.”

But Reid may need the votes of both Maine Senators to get the 60 votes he needs, considering Democrats are beginning to believe that securing the support of moderate Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) may also be a lost cause.

Nelson has also expressed objections to the public option, and he has been seeking to tighten the bill’s restrictions on federal funding of abortion. However, aides said Nelson’s abortion amendment — which could come up for a vote today — is unlikely to prevail and there is little appetite in the caucus for a compromise that will assuage Nelson’s concerns.

Some staffers even posited that the possibility of gaining Nelson’s support might be more remote than Lieberman’s.

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