Commentary Magazine


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Dying on the Vine?

Sen. Joe Lieberman is the latest Democrat to give thumbs down to the “public option” on healthcare reform. The Hill reports:

“I don’t favor a public option,” Lieberman told Bloomberg News in an interview broadcast this weekend. “And I don’t favor a public option because I think there’s plenty of competition in the private insurance market.”

Lieberman’s decision joins several other centrist Democrats’ decision to have publicly refused to back the plan, derided as a “government-run” plan by Republicans.

Centrist Democrats like Sens. Mary Landrieu (La.) and Ben Nelson (Neb.) have also been skittish to back the public option, which is favored by liberal Democrats and the Obama administration. If Republicans are able to pick off enough Democrats, they may be able to muster enough votes to filibuster any legislation that includes the public option.

If this keeps up there won’t be a bare majority, let alone 60 votes for the public option. (Sounds like card check more and more every day.)

And it’s not hard to see why this makes so many conservatives and middle-of-the-roaders nervous. As Yuval Levin and Bill Kristol explained, Obama is insisting that private insurance competition is insufficient:

Obama wants government to be one of the competitors–in the alleged interest of honesty and price reduction. When has a government alternative produced those results? Clearly the point is to use the power of the government to impose price controls and override state rules in order to undersell private insurers. The public plan is a gradual path to single payer health care, aimed at moving American health care in a European or Canadian direction.

Despite all the smoke-and-mirrors from the White House on everyone getting to keep the doctor and insurance they want, Congressmen and Senators — not to mention the AMA — have figured out what’s up. And the idea of ushering in a hugely expensive system of rationed, government-controlled healthcare is proving to be quite distasteful — to lawmakers of both parties.

It seems once again that for all his popularity, Obama isn’t very successful in getting support for his policies.