Dealing with Revolting Joe.

Recently, Joe Lieberman said he would not be one of the 60 votes necessary to bring the Senate health care reform bill to the floor. What a shock! After all, this is a man who ran against his party’s nominated candidate as a so-called independent. He campaigned and voted for his pal, John McCain, for President. He spoke at the Republican National Convention.
Then, following the election, he came back to the Democratic caucus so he could retain the chair of a powerful Senate committee.

Now, he claims that he’ll refuse to vote for cloture on the health care reform bill out of “principle.” His concern is that the bill contains a public option. So he’s willing to help Republicans filibuster in order to kill the bill. This from a man who worked to eliminate filibusters as a freshman Senator in 1994.

So what changed?

Likely he’s more concerned about the insurance companies that are headquartered in Connecticut than he is about the citizens of his state. And perhaps he feels he owes big insurance for campaign donations toward his re-election. That would make his stance more about principal than principle.

So what are Democrats to do about Revolting Joe? If he kills health care reform by siding with Republicans, they could take away his chairmanship. But that would likely drive him to the Republican caucus which would mean that the Democrats would no longer be able to block any Republican filibuster.

On the other hand, if Democrats do nothing to punish him, Revolting Joe would continue to caucus with Democrats, but his vote would be unreliable and he would be free to use his position to kill Democratic legislation or to extract concessions.

I propose that Democrats call his bluff. Let him help Republicans filibuster health care reform. Let Joe and his conservative buddies prattle away on the Senate floor for days on end. Turn the whole affair into an exhibition of stupidity. Let Americans see the “Party of No” at work. I believe that would make it virtually impossible for Republicans to gain many seats in the House or Senate in 2010. It would make Revolting Joe a pariah among his constituents, save for the insurance companies. And although big insurance can fund his campaign, they can’t re-elect him.