Lieberman Moving Toward Support of Health Reform, Not Swaying Republican Collins

By Gorman Gorman

Dec 15, 2009 12:59pm

ABC’s Z. Byron Wolf reports:

Lieberman moving toward support of health reform, not swaying Republican Collins

Sen. Joe Lieberman, the Connecticut Independent Democratic leaders need to support health reform said today he's close to supporting the a health reform bill.

But Republican Sen. Susan Collins, long eyed by Democratic leaders as a possible bipartisan vote  – not so much.

The two Senators, who work closely together on the Homeland Security Committee, appeared together before reporters after a closed briefing on the investigation into the Ft. Hood shooting. They had differing reactions to news that Democratic leaders will likely acquiesce to Lieberman and drop from the health reform bill a proposal allow seniors 55-64 to buy in to Medicare.

Lieberman said he is closer than ever to supporting Democrats proposal in the Senate. "If what appears to be happening – the so-called public option, the government run insurance option is out and the Medicare buy-in, which I think would jeopardize Medicare, cost taxpayers billions of dollars over the long haul and increase our deficit, is out, and there are no other attempts to bring other things like that in, I'm going to be in  a position where I can say what I wanted to say all along – that I wanted to vote for health care reform."

Asked about whether Connecticut-based insurance companies have pressured him – "I haven't received any pressure from insurance companies and I mean it," Lieberman said.

Lieberman also defended his opposition to the Medicare buy-in proposal that would have made liberal Democrats happier with a health reform bill, arguing that his position is not a change for him (not, he said, that there's anything wrong with change).

"I didn't' change my mind on the Medicare buy-in, he said, "Although it's not terrible to change one's mind if in fact you do."

Lieberman said he supported a Medicare buy-in in 2000 because it was part of the Democrats platform and he was Al Gore's running mate.

But that was a different time, he argued, when the government was running a federal surplus and Medicare was not fiscally imperiled like it is today.
In the 2000 campaign, when I was privileged to be al gore's running mate, one part of the democratic platform was

"A lot of things have changed in nine years," said Lieberman.

Asked about video of him being interviewed by the Connecticut Post earlier this year and seeming to again support Medicare buy-in, Lieberman said: "I finally got to see that on the TV last night and it looked like I was referring to things I had supported in the past."

"I'm not the only person in the Democratic caucus who opposed the Medicare buy-in. you saw that 11 other democratic senators wrote to Sen. Reid telling him they were against it because of the impact it would have on hospitals," said Lieberman.

Of the pared down health reform proposal: "What's beginning to emerge and what I'm happy about is really a historic achievement on health care reform such as we've not seen in decades."

Collins, however, did not sound open to supporting the bill.

"This bill is getting better, but it's still deeply flawed," she said.

Collins has offered several sets of amendments with Lieberman and also with other Democrats to improve the bill. She said she has not been told if those amendments will get votes or be included in a hasty rewrite Democrats are undertaking. And even if all of her amendments were included, Collins said she still wouldn't support the bill.

"I think something is going to pass and I would like to make that bill as good as possible even if ultimately it's not a bill that I can support," she said.

"I believe I have an obligation to improve the bill, not to just say no."

Collins said she has had "extensive discussions" with President Obama, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and others, but she has not been swayed.

"I appreciate the dialogue that we're having but they certainly have not moved me toward to being able to support the bill at this point."

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