• Rob Spectre
  • 21
  • Nov
  • 09

It’s been a while since the Democratic Party tasted win.  Outplayed since March by a small, but clever Republican opposition, the only tangible political victory the Obama-led Dems has been the gimme-election in New York’s 23rd Congressional District.  That contest – more a product of GOP self-destruction than strong Democratic campaigning – still leaves the landslide Democratic government rapidly closing out its first year solidly in the red, scuttled more by their own dissension than their opponent’s unity.

But in the clutch vote for cloture for Obama’s number one legislative priority, Harry Reid’s supposed supermajority Senate is coming through.  Securing the last vote mere hours before the roll call, Reid disproved the smart money that he could deliver the votes when it really mattered.  Undoubtedly, the votes of Blanche Lincoln and Mary Landrieu, the last holdouts over the cloture motion, came at some significant cost to the more liberal elements of healthcare reform, but early indications suggest the store was not sold to bring healthcare to the floor.

For the more jaded observers among us, that cloture was ever in doubt is further evidence of our decline.  In the incomprehensibly meta game of the modern American legislative process, just getting to talk about a bill is a landmark victory.  Just getting a bill to a floor debate has, for a decade through the disruptive work of both sides of the aisle, become dental work; a thoroughly unpleasant grind that barely staves off the inevitable loss of its subject.

It is unlikely the modern model of passing law is what our Founding Fathers had in mind.  Passing laws should be this difficult, debating them should not particularly with a electoral mandate this large.  That a supermajority has to perform this many roots canal in order to get its primary objective accomplished suggests a procedural perversion of the original intent of the Constitution.  It’s a status quo for which both political parties should be rightly blamed; a condition where writing law is like making a Hollywood blockbuster – one phone call can kill everything.

But if tonight’s roll call reflects today’s dealmaking, it would seem that a supermajority is worth something after all, if it is an advantage that can only be leveraged once a year.

  • Rob Spectre
  • 27
  • Oct
  • 09

Barely a heartbeat after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced the Senate healthcare reform bill would include the public option, the odds on his gamble started to look longer and longer.  The White House quietly pulled back its support of Reid’s state-level opt-out provision.  The early nose counts from the press said Reid was still shy of the 60 votes needs for a cloture motion.  It didn’t take long then for a certain Connecticut independent to exploit his former colleague’s weakness.

The buzz in Washington all morning was whether or not Joe Lieberman was going to filibuster healthcare reform.  He kicked off the day announcing that he intended to filibuster the bill due to Reid’s inclusion of the public option.  His aides would confirm such throughout the day, saying the former Democrat would vote against cloture.   By the end of the day, Lieberman had returned to his usual wishy-washiness.  Talking Points Memo had the direct word:

I told Senator Reid that I’m strongly inclined–i haven’t totally decided, but I’m strongly inclined–to vote to proceed to the health care debate, even though I don’t support the bill that he’s bringing together because it’s important that we start the debate on health care reform because I want to vote for health care reform this year. But I also told him that if the bill remains what it is now, I will not be able to support a cloture motion before final passage. Therefore I will try to stop the passage of the bill.

Source: Talk Radio News Service

Photo: Talk Radio News Service

So by the close of Congressional business, all we know is that Lieberman may or may not be inclined to filibuster a bill he may or may not end up voting for, depending on “where things end up.”

What caused Lieberman to waffle after such a strong public statement earlier in the day?  Undoubtedly the immediate furious outrage on the Internet helped tilt his notoriously flaky barometer.

Joe Lieberman has been drifting in and out of trending topics on Twitter all day and little of it has been praise.  He is despised on the left for his opportunism and disdained by the right for his inconsistency.    Despite pledging to support universal healthcare just three years ago, Lieberman’s recent change of heart generated the kind of rebuke only Hell’s own Internet can spew:

Joe Lieberman is a joke… wrinkled-faced bastardo!

Joe Lieberman:  Huge douchebag, or hugest douchebag ever?

Joe Lieberman deserves a punch in the dick.

Though not as colorful, mainstream press was similarly skeptical with many talking heads observing that the senator’s flip-flop came at an awfully convenient moment politically.  Though it cannot be denied that this vote is going to be close, it is hard for many to see Lieberman’s move as anything more than a play to stay in the spotlight as Congress’s most important independent.

Many are joining the White House with a reaction decidedly unimpressed.  If an afternoon’s outrage is enough to make Lieberman waffle, his participation in the healthcare bill is unlikely to have any significance.  I think we’ve seen this picture before and know how it ends.

Joe Lieberman’s headlines today just highlight what we’ve known for a while – he’s all hat and no cowboy.