The announcement by Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) on Tuesday that he may part company with the Democratic caucus to join with Republicans in filibustering health care reform dismayed advocates of a public option but sent health insurance stocks soaring.
MSNBC's Rachel Maddow noted that this action is unusual even for Lieberman, who in the past has refrained from blocking floor votes on bills that he himself opposed. Maddow was joined by blogger Jane Hamsher, founder of FireDogLake, to discuss the unprecedented nature of Lieberman's decision.
"It's never happened before that one party had -- technically, in the caucus -- a filibuster-proof majority and one of the members went to join over with the opposition party," Hamsher told Maddow. "You have to ask yourself, 'What were they thinking when they let Joe into the caucus and didn't get him to agree to join with them on procedural votes?'"
Hamsher put primary blame for the decision on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who said back in 2008, "I trust Joe," when he was asked if Lieberman could be counted upon not to filibuster.with the Republicans in return for keeping his committee chairmanship.
"Reid's the one who, as majority leader, did not get Lieberman to commit as the price of his gavel to join with the caucus on procedural votes," Hamsher emphasized. "So if Joe wants to screw him over, that's fine. Joe may not pay a price in Connecticut, but Reid will pay a price in Nevada for it."
Maddow also pointed out that "the most high-profile thing that Joe Liberman has done with his Homeland Security chairmanship is hold a hearing on whether or not President Obama has too many czars, just like Fox News said that he did. What value is he to the Democrats?"
"One has to wonder," Hamsher agreed. "Sixty votes is meaningless if you don't have them. ... His job is basically to be of more value to the Republicans within the Democratic caucus than he would be on the outside of it."
Hamsher concluded by suggesting that Reid and President Obama "are going to have to lean on Joe this time, because otherwise I think there will be a price to pay for allowing him to dictate what the caucus does. ... There are consequences down the line for Joe's lack of loyalty."
This video is from MSNBC' The Rachel Maddow Show, broadcast Oct. 27, 2009.