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Lieberman Should Get Credit for Role Passing Health Bill

Instead of vilifying Sen. Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.), Democrats ought to be praising him for saving health care legislation from defeat.

And liberal criticism of the Senate’s health care bill as some sort of gift to the health insurance industry, unworthy of passage, is just laughable.

Whether health care reform proves to be a political boon or blight for Democrats in 2010 is open to question, but the fact is that they are nearing a historic accomplishment — insurance coverage for almost 30 million Americans and a ban on denial of coverage because someone is sick.

Democrats could have written far, far better bills than either the House or Senate versions, but the Senate version required Herculean efforts on the part of two of the least-loved members of the Senate — Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) — and the late intervention of a third, Lieberman.

The tireless Reid is the constant target of Republican gibes and may well lose his re-election race in Nevada next year. Baucus is privately sneered at by Democratic colleagues for his prickliness and for cooperating too much with Republicans.

But the venom heaped on Lieberman for pulling the government-run “public option” insurance plan and Medicare for 55- to 64-year-olds out of the Senate health care reform bill has been withering.

His home-state colleague, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D), suggested that Connecticut’s voters recall him. MoveOn.org posted a video making him out to be a sock puppet of the insurance industry.

Even more vituperatively, WashingtonPost.com economics blogger Ezra Klein opined, “he seems to be willing to cause the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people in order to settle an old electoral score.”

The “old score,” of course, is Lieberman’s defeat in his Democratic re-election primary in 2006 by liberal Ned Lamont over his support for the Iraq war. Lieberman beat Lamont 50 percent to 40 percent in the general election running as an Independent.

It was Lieberman’s liberation, freeing him up to do politically as he pleases, including supporting his friend, Republican Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) for president in 2008.

He managed to hold on to his chairmanship of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee because Democrats need him to be their 60th vote to break Republican filibusters, but he’s otherwise a pariah in his party.

Somehow, liberals give a pass to Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), who votes more like a Republican than Lieberman and held out on health care even longer — possibly because of the 2006 and 2008 history and possibly because liberals figure Nebraska is culturally “out there” and demands tolerance.

But the fact is, Lieberman’s success in inducing Reid to drop the public option and Medicare buy-in was a gift to Democrats.

Lieberman provided cover for four or five other moderate Democrats who might well have been “no” votes and sent the Senate bill down to defeat.

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