Lieberman ‘Open’ to Obama Reconciliation Plan, Worried It Will Poison Capitol Hill Atmosphere

By Matt Loffman

Mar 3, 2010 1:28pm

ABC's Z. Byron Wolf reports: Sen. Joe Lieberman, the Connecticut Independent who was instrumental last year in stripping a public option from health reform legislation in the Senate, said today he was open to using reconciliation to pass President Obama's latest health reform proposal. "I'm open to it," Lieberman said at a press conference. But that was all he would say on-camera. Lieberman wants to see specifics from the White House and did not want to discuss the issue at the press conference, held to announce his proposal to repeal the military's "don't ask don't tell" policy toward the service of gays and lesbians. He may be open to reconciliation, but Lieberman made clear that he thinks the move could poison the atmosphere in the Senate for the rest of the year and he is "seriously concerned about the precedent this would set." As he has before, Lieberman said off-camera that using reconciliation is still “not my first choice,” but he admitted that the odds of getting a Republican to sign on to any of the current proposals is “just about nil.” And he warned that Republicans who would normally work with Democrats on many issues have told him that Congressional passage of health reform legislation by Democrats would lead to a toxic atmosphere on Capitol Hill where Republicans stand in the way of every major piece of legislation Democrats try to consider for the rest of the year. One of those pieces of legislation could be Lieberman’s proposal to repeal the “don’t ask don’t tell policy.” He appeared today with other Democratic Senators and former military members who advocate doing away with the policy, which they said is morally wrong and puts a handicap on recruiting in a time of war. Lieberman said his proposal “does not have 60 votes today.” But he hopes that once a promised review of the policy by the Pentagon is completed late this year, some wavering Senators, like Arizona Republican John McCain, Maine Republican Susan Collins or Virginia Democrat Jim Webb would support it. Update: Republicans point out a quote from Lieberman on CNN last August. While he never rejected using reconciliation out of hand, he did say it would be a “real mistake” to pass a bill without enough public support. “I think it's a real mistake to try to jam through the total health insurance reform, health care reform plan that the public is either opposed to or of very, very passionate mixed minds about,” said Lieberman at the time.

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