By Alexander Bolton - 10/27/09 05:48 PM EDT
Sen. Joe Lieberman, the Democrat-turned-Independent from Connecticut, said Tuesday that he will not vote for a healthcare reform bill that includes a government-run insurance plan.
This means that as things now stand, Democrats will not have enough votes to pass healthcare reform with a so-called public option unless Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) can pick up unexpected GOP votes.
Sen. Olympia Snowe (Maine), the only Republican to vote for the Senate Finance Committee’s healthcare bill, said Tueday that she would vote against bringing up a bill that included a government-run insurance program unless the implementation of such a program were set to a trigger.
Lieberman said he told Reid of his position in a recent conversation and that the leader “respected and understood.”
“We’re trying to do too much at once,” said Lieberman. “To put this government-created, government-run insurance company on top of everything else is just asking for trouble for the taxpayer, for the premium payer and for the national debt. I don’t think we need it now.”
Lieberman said he was not placated by allowing states to opt out of the public option “because it still creates a whole new federal government entitlement program, for which taxpayers will eventually be on the line.”
The motion to begin debate and the motion to move to a final vote are two actions that would require 60 votes and are considered the highest hurdles to passing a reform bill through the Senate.
Several centrist Democrats, including Sens. Evan Bayh (Ind.) and Ben Nelson (Neb.), said they have not yet decided whether they would vote to begin debate on healthcare reform next week or the week after.
“I don’t think there is much difference between process and policy at this particular juncture, so I’m going to be looking at those two things as one and the same,” said Bayh, who added that he might vote to block debate. “I want to see what the bill has to say and if I think they have major substantive flaws in it, they may have to be corrected before we go to the floor for debte.”
Unlike Lieberman, Bayh said the public option is a relatively minor concern for him.
“I have some qualms about that but that has not been my greatest concern,” he said.
Bayh said he is more concerned about whether the reform bill “is fiscally responsible and [to] make sure we’re not setting up something that will explode into huge deficits.” Bayh also wants to make sure that the legislation does not drive up premiums for Americans who now have insurance.
Nelson said he would wait to review the written provisions of the reform bill before making a decision on whether to vote to begin debate.
“Nobody’s read it other than the leader and maybe some staff,” Nelson said.