'I feel relevant,' senator says of attention to his health care stance

Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman says he would prefer doing nothing to passing a health care bill that includes a public option, and he is making clear that, if health care reform doesn't pass, he plans to put the blame on supporters of the public option.

"I think a public option will actually hurt the economic recovery and our long-term fiscal situation because it will end up causing the government to raise taxes, it will probably raise premiums or it will put us further into debt," Lieberman, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, told CBS's Bob Schieffer.

Lieberman was on CBS's Face the Nation discussing his announcement last week that he plans to join the Republicans in filibustering a health care reform bill if that bill includes the public option. Lieberman further angered members of the Democratic Party when he announced he plans to campaign for some Republicans in 2010.

"I feel so strongly about the creation of another government health insurance entitlement, the government going into the health insurance business, I think it's such a mistake that I would use the power I have as a single senator to stop a final vote," Lieberman said.

"Wouldn't that mean you might wind up with nothing instead of something?" Schieffer asked.

"Yeah, but I would say to the people who are all of a sudden [supporting] the public option, a government health insurance company ... they're stopping us from getting something done," Lieberman replied.

Schieffer pursued the line of questioning: "What you're also saying is nothing is better than health reform that includes a public option."

"The truth is that nothing is better than that, because we have to follow the doctor's oath here -- do no harm," Lieberman said.

The senator argued that the public option would not improve health care, pointing to a Congressional Budget Office report stating that the public option may have higher premiums than public plans.

But many critics of Lieberman's decision argue that he is motivated not by policy differences but by a desire to get attention, and by the fact that many insurance companies are headquartered in Connecticut. Schieffer noted that Lieberman has received some $400,000 from insurance companies.

Blogger Matt Corley at ThinkProgress advanced the notion yesterday that Lieberman is seeking attention, pointing to an article in the Hartford Courant in which Lieberman says of the controversy surrounding his decision: "I feel relevant."

Lieberman's relevancy to the process consists of the fact that Democrats need his vote to get the 60 votes they need to overcome a Republican filibuster of health care reform.

This video is from CBS' Face the Nation, broadcast Nov. 1, 2009.

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