The smart take among liberal and Democratic strategists is that Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) is making an empty threat to filibuster his party’s health care bill. But there are short-term consequences for what Lieberman is doing. The National Republican Senatorial Committee is using Lieberman to push Democrats in red and purple states to back away from supporting the public option.
“Senator Lieberman should be commended today for sticking with his principles and standing against efforts by Democrat leaders in Washington to ram through a controversial and massive government health care bill,” says NRSC spokesman Colin Reed in a statement aimed at Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.)–a liberal in a red state who has shown no sign of bucking the public option, but faces a (somewhat remote) re-election threat if Gov. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) runs next year. “The question many in Washington and in North Dakota are waiting to have answered, however, is where do Byron Dorgan and Kent Conrad stand? Will they stand with Harry Reid and his partisan government-run health care bill or will they stand with North Dakota taxpayers who are already facing an unimaginable federal debt? Both Senators have had more than enough time to study this issue and understand its consequences on North Dakota taxpayers – it’s time they made their position clear as Senator Lieberman did today.”
The NRSC is sending more or less the same statement to reporters in Louisiana, Nebraska, Florida, and Indiana. The latter two states were blue in 2008 but red in 2004.