The Corner

The Water Is Cold in Connecticut

Sen. Joe Lieberman has just released a statement that pours some cold water on the talk of a huge Senate health-care breakthrough. He signals that the public-option trigger won’t work for him, he raises a red flag about the Medicare “buy-in” expansion (an expansion which is simply bizarre in a bill that cuts so much from Medicare at the same time), and he says the proposals will have to be fully scored by CBO and analyzed by the CMS actuary before they can be taken up — all of which are problems for the Dems. Here’s his statement:

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Joe Lieberman (ID-CT) issued the following statement regarding the latest in Senate health care reform negotiations:

“I am encouraged by the progress toward a consensus on proposals to send to the Congressional Budget Office to review.  I believe that it is important to pass legislation that expands access to the millions who do not have coverage, improves quality and lowers costs while not impeding our economic recovery or increasing the debt. 

“My opposition to a government-run insurance option, including any option with a trigger, has been clear for months and remains my position today. 

“Regarding the ‘Medicare buy-in’ proposal that is being discussed, we must remain vigilant about protecting and extending the solvency of the program, which is now in a perilous financial condition.  

“It is my understanding that at this point there is no legislative language so I look forward to analyzing the details of the plan and reviewing analysis from the Congressional Budget Office and the Office of the Actuary in the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid.”

The logic of the Reid proposal, as it has been emerging in the past few hours, seems to be pure political panic. The parts make very little policy sense, individually or together, and don’t really make political sense outside the Senate either (for instance, sending huge numbers of younger people into Medicare is likely to turn off the AMA, which hates the way Medicare treats doctors, and will send the hospitals screaming for the same reason). But the idea is to cobble together whatever it takes to get 60 votes in the short term and worry about it later.

As Bill Kristol notes, Reid’s strategy depends on building a sense of inevitability with this proposal. That doesn’t seem to be happening this morning, if Lieberman’s reaction is any guide.

Yuval Levin is the director of social, cultural, and constitutional studies at the American Enterprise Institute and the editor of National Affairs.

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