In what may have been a reflection of progressives’ anger towards Sen. Joe Lieberman, Minnesota Sen. Al Franken shut down a speech by Lieberman on the Senate floor Thursday, refusing to give the Connecticut independent extra time to finish a statement on health care reform.
While that move instantly angered some of Lieberman’s friends and allies, such as Sen. John McCain, it will likely be celebrated by supporters of the public option in health care reform, who are blaming Lieberman for the option’s disappearance from the Senate version of the health bill.
As Lieberman discussed some amendments to the health bill that he plans to table, Democratic Sen. Franken, who was presiding over the proceedings, cut in and said, “I’m sorry, the senator has spoken for 10 minutes.”
“I wonder if I could ask for unanimous consent for just an additional moment,” Lieberman said.
“Uh, in my capacity as senator from Minnesota, I object,” Franken said, effectively denying Lieberman the unanimous consent he would need to keep talking.
“Really,” a visibly stunned Lieberman responded. Denying consent for an extension is an unusual move in the Senate. “Okay, don’t take it personally,” Lieberman added.
Sen. McCain, who spoke immediately after Lieberman, appeared outraged at Franken’s move.
“I’ve been around here twenty-some years, first time I’ve seen a member denied a minute or two to finish his remarks. And I must say that I don’t know what’s happening here in this body, but I think it’s wrong.”
At that moment Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) interjected, saying: “I think that the same thing did occur earlier this afternoon, for reasons which have to do with trying to get this bill going.”
“Well I just haven’t seen it before myself and I don’t like it,” McCain said. “And I think it harms the comity of the Senate not to allow one of our members at least a minute.”
Sen. Lieberman, a former Democrat who ran as Al Gore’s vice presidential running mate in 2000, has been sitting as an independent in the Senate since 2006. He campaigned for McCain in 2008.
The following video was broadcast on C-SPAN December 17, 2009, and uploaded to the Web by FireDogLake.