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|Thank God for Joe Lieberman|
Any sane individual who gives two hoots about the future of the country should be concerned in light of the U.S. House of Representatives' vote over the weekend to approve a needlessly expensive health care reform bill.
At the same time, though, we can relax to some degree.
We can relax because it's a near certainty the U.S. Senate will not sign off on the $1.2-trillion measure the House approved on a 220-215 vote. That much was confirmed Sunday when Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut declared on Fox News that he would not allow the House-passed bill to come to a vote in the Senate. Lieberman has the power to do it, too.
An Independent, Lieberman is one of those rare members of the Senate who is not beholden to either party, Democrat or Republican. He's known as a deep thinker who's willing to put the country's best interests before his own best interests, or what might be best for his own politics.
A rarity, for sure, and we can thank God for it.
Though he's an Independent, Lieberman often caucuses with Democrats, meaning he traditionally votes with Democrats on key issues. Health care reform would be an exception.
At least that's the message Lieberman has been conveying for months with his oft-stated comments that he would not support legislation that established a government-run health care insurance provider, which is what the House-passed bill entailed. Moreover, Lieberman has said he would side with Republicans in filibustering any legislation that called for establishing a government-run option.
That's especially significant. It's significant because Lieberman's position gives Republicans and moderate Democrats in the Senate the edge they need to derail legislation like the House passed on Saturday.
In the coming weeks, we will witness a fierce fight waged by Democrats and Republicans in the Senate, all of them arguing over what true health care reform means, or entails. Vast differences in opinion will surface, more so than they already have.
Popping off in the peanut gallery, so to speak, will be House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other liberals in the House who would like to see the Senate embrace their ideas for health care reform. The national media, by and large, will follow suit.
The vast difference, of course, between the Senate health care reform bill and the House-passed measure centers on the government-run proposal. It's a non-starter in the Senate.
More important, though, the House and the Senate have totally opposite ideas of how to pay for health care reform. House Democrats claim their $1.2-trillion bill can be financed by some $600 billion in new taxes levied on the backs of so-called wealthy Americans. They also claim some $600 billion in savings can be realized by cutting waste in Medicare and Medicaid.
Some Senate Democrats say their $900-billion health care reform bill can be financed by taxing those "gold plated" health insurance plans some Americans enjoy thanks to their employers. Identifying and cutting wasteful spending would generate enough money to pay the balance.
While there's little that's appealing in any plan advanced by Democrats in either the House or Senate, the health care reform bill Republicans recently put forward was a sad excuse of a joke. A wholesale sellout to the insurance industry would be an appropriate description.
Yet, we should not overlook the obvious.
The obvious is health care reform has little to do with extending health insurance to the millions of Americans who have no access to it at all. For many Democrats, health care reform is about redistributing wealth and seizing control of 15 percent of the economy. For many Republicans, the mere mention of health care reform presents a threat to the status quo. Unfortunately, the country can no longer afford to maintain the status quo.
So where does that leave us?
It leaves us headed toward the 2010 election year, hoping Joe Lieberman is successful in shutting down a disastrous attempt to remake the U.S. economy at the expense of working Americans.
It also leaves us with a hot campaign issue to argue about in the coming year.