The Joe Problem

I started thinking about the Democrats Joe Lieberman problem back when the President (who was really new then and trying to play nice) gave his blessing to allowing Joe, a McCain and other Republicans supporter, back into the Democratic Senate caucus.  They also let him be the Chair of the Homeland Security committee.  So now why is Joe going to vote with the Republicans to let them filibuster the health care bill.  He claims he is opposed to the public option and worried about the deficit.

The other night Rachael Maddow had an interesting piece about Joe and Birch Bayh.  Yesterday, Bayh flipped flopped around, but in the end said he will vote with the Democrats to let Health Care Reform come to the floor of the Senate.  I hope he was scared of the ads that reform supporters would be running showing his wife on the board of directors of Wellpoint and graphs of how much money they made from the insurance companies. 

But Joe is a different problem.  As Nate Silver writes

The reason this is a little scary for Democrats is because the usual things that serve to motivate a Congressman don’t seem to motivate Joe Lieberman.

Would voting to filibuster the Democrats’ health care bill (if it contains a decent public option) endear Lieberman to his constituents? No; Connecticutians favor the public option 64-31.

Would it make his path to re-election easier? No, because it would virtually assure that Lieberman faces a vigorous and well-funded challenge from a credible, capital-D Democrat, and polls show him losing such a match-up badly.

Would it buy him more power in the Senate? No, because Democrats would have every reason to strip him of his chairmanship of the Homeland Security Committee.

Is Lieberman’s stance intended to placate the special interests in his state? Perhaps this is part of it — there are a lot of insurance companies in Connecticut — but Lieberman is generally not one of the more sold-out Senators, ranking 75th out of the 100-member chamber in the percentage of his fundraising that comes from corporate PACs.

So what does Harry Reid need to do?  Stroke Joe’s ego more?  Buy him a puppy as Nate Silver suggests?  And how many times does Reid do this?  Back to Nate

The other way that this is damaging to Democrats, of course, is that it may embolden an Evan Bayh or a Blanche Lincoln or a Ben Nelson to adopt Lieberman’s stance. None of these guys want to be the lone Democratic member to filibuster — but it’s much easier to defray individual responsibility on a procedural vote against your party when you have someone else joining you.

But while a Nelson or a Lincoln is liable to have a fairly rational set of concerns — basically, they want to ensure they get re-elected — it’s tough to bargain with people like Lieberman who are a little crazy. In certain ways, he resembles nothing so much as one of those rogue, third-bit Middle Eastern dictators that he’s so often carping about, capable of creating great anxiety with relatively little expenditure of resources, and taking equal pleasure in watching his friends and enemies sweat.

In other word:  Joe Lieberman is not rational and is more than a little nuts.  And he must be feeling great because his, little Joe Lieberman, is standing single handedly in the way of what is looking like an acceptable health care bill.

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